In the sentence

Wo soll er denn hin?

what is the main verb? "Soll" is an auxiliary verb and "hin" is the verb meaning "go" in English. (My book explains it that "hin" is an adverb here which seems wrong.)

Of course in "Wo gehst du hin?", "hin" is an adverb.
Isn't my understanding correct? I need to confirm.

  • Unfortunately your book is right and you are wrong. Hin is always an adverb. One could rephrase the sentcence to Wo soll er hingehen?, but any similiarity of hin and go ends here. – guidot Mar 8 '17 at 16:18

German has separable verbs, and hinsollen is such a verb. (You can also find it in Duden.)

In the sentence

Wo soll er denn hin?

The words »soll« and »hin« are both parts of the main verb. »Soll« is never an auxiliary verb. German has only three verbs that can be used as auxiliary verbs:

Haben, sein und werden
sind die drei Hilfszeitwörter auf Erden

Sollen ist not one of those three verbs.

The word-by word translation of this sentence is:

Where to-must he?

English has no separable verbs, and »hinsollen« has no 1:1 translation in English.

Also reinmüssen is a separable verb, it works exactly the same way as hinsollen


In German the verbs müssen and sollen also can be used to describe a movement, see https://german.stackexchange.com/a/22628/1487

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  • Wow, there are numerous separable verbs in German. Thanks! – Chan Kim Mar 9 '17 at 1:15
  • I would call sollen an auxiliary in a sentence like ‘Ich soll gehen.’ But maybe it’s closer to a modal verb. – Jan Mar 15 '17 at 1:35

You seem to analyse an English translation of that sentence. Yes,

Wo soll er (denn) hin?

should be translated Where should he go? (This denn is a particle which has no matching English equivalent; to translate it you need more context.)

But, literally, the German sentence had to be translated Where should he to?

Of course, that isn't proper English. English requires the go. But it's proper German without it. Sollen isn't a auxiliary in that sentence but a full verb, meaning should go. Same with müssen, and können.

Wo soll ich nur hin?

Wo muss noch Salz rein?

Wo kann noch etwas drauf?

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  • Thanks for the explanation. it helps but I selected the other answer which explained it clearer to me about the word 'hinsollen'. – Chan Kim Mar 9 '17 at 1:15
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    It's okay. Just be careful this is only one of a family of words starting with an adverb of direction as the prefix and sollen, müssen, können as the base verb. – Janka Mar 9 '17 at 1:36
  • Yes, hinkönnen, hinmüssen are good words I learned from your post. – Chan Kim Mar 9 '17 at 2:38

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