On a test, the question was "choose the correct option" and the question was "Er läuft ____ Bibliotheksaal."

Two options were "in den" and "zu dem"

I thought these two options would be the same. Am I wrong?

  • 2
    in den means into, while zu dem means to, towards. – Janka Apr 9 '17 at 19:00
  • 2
    Both are correct for describing different situations. Unless there is further context to the question, the test is ambiguous, and therefore not useful. – Kilian Foth Apr 10 '17 at 6:47

Ich gehe zu dem Bibliotheksaal.

This sentence means you are going to the library hall, but it does not mean you are going inside. That sentence can also mean you will just stand infront of it, If you are on foot but if you go there by car, you just park infront of it. If You want to say you are going inside the library hall, then you say :

Ich gehe in den Bibliotheksaal.


It is not the same.

Er läuft in den Bibliotheksaal.
He runs into the library hall.

So at the end of that action, he is inside the hall.


Er läuft zu dem Bibliotheksaal.
He runs towards the library hall.

You don't know where his run really ends. You just know, that he started in the same direction, that someone would choose who wants to run into the hall. But you don't know, if the hall is really the target of the runner you are watching now. And even, if he's target really is that library hall, you don't know if he wants to stop in front of the door or if he is going to enter it.


Something you may need to know. In = followed by akkusativ or dativ case to indicate movement. Zu = always followed by dativ case to indicate position.

In = Ich gehe in das Restaurant (akk) Ich bin in dem Restaurant (dat)

Zu = Ich gehe zu der Uni (dat) Ich bin zu Haus (dat)

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