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In a phrasebook, I came across the phrase

Wir gehen in das Wohnzimmer.

I was expecting this instead

Wir gehen ins Wohnzimmer.

What's the relationship between these two forms? (I.e. are they both common variants? Are they both equally "correct"? Are they completely synonymous? Etc.)

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    Definitely for everyday use (e.g. when you invite your guests to move from the kitchen into the hall) Wir gehen ins Wohnzimmer would be the normal thing to say. Wir gehen in das Wohnzimmer sounds over-precise. If this appeares in a phrasebook, it is either because the author is not a native speaker, or because he wanted to spare the reader of the complexity of knowing that ins is short for in das. – Christian Geiselmann Jun 29 '18 at 15:13
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    Lt. Duden: duden.de/rechtschreibung/ins ins=in das. – user unknown Jun 29 '18 at 15:43
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In das and ins are absolutely equivalent in your example.

(https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/ins)

Prepositions can often merge with succeeding articles, mostly in the dative.

an + dem = am
an + das = ans
bei + dem = beim
in + dem = im
in + das = ins
von + dem = vom
zu + dem = zum
zu + der = zur

less formal:

auf + das = aufs
durch + das = durchs
für + das = fürs
hinter + dem = hinterm
hinter + das = hinters
hinter + den = hintern
über + dem = überm
über + das = übers
über + den = übern
um + das = ums
unter + dem = unterm
unter + das = unters
unter + den = untern
vor + dem = vorm
vor + das = vors


However, there are cases where they are not equal. Preposition and article cannot merge if the article is stressed (demonstrative pronouns) or the noun is specified more precisely afterwards (relative clause), e. g.

Wir gehen ins in das Wohnzimmer(, das weiße Wände hat).
We go into that specific living room (with white walls).


There are a few special cases where the use of the short form (even the less formal ones) is mandatory:

  • fixed expressions

    ans Licht bringen
    fürs Erste
    im Sinne von
    ums Leben kommen
    zum ersten Mal

  • substantiated infinitives

    beim Essen
    Freude am Spielen
    im Sterben liegen
    vom Segeln träumen

  • geographical proper names with articles

    am Rhein
    Frankfurt am Main
    vom Schwarzwald bis zum Bodensee
    Beziehungen zur Türkei

  • time specifications

    am 5. Juni
    am Montag
    im Juni
    am gleichen Tag

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  • The middle part seems not to be true for entire Germany. I (southern Germany) would not have any problem with the following sentences: "In welches von beiden Zimmern gehen wir? Wir gehen ins Zimmer, das blaue Tapeten hat." However for the answer: "Wir gehen in das Zimmer und nicht ins andere." you would be right. – Martin Rosenau Jul 10 '18 at 20:11
  • @MartinRosenau I agree, hardly any German would have a problem with that, especially not in spoken language. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be quite perfect German. – Scriptim Jul 10 '18 at 21:38
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They are virtually identical. ins is short for in das (in the same way as im/in dem, zum/zu dem...).

In certain contexts the sentence with in das could put slightly more stress on the fact that you are going to this particular room and not another room.

I'd use the second form more often.

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One is simply a shortened version of the other. There is no difference in meaning or applicability, except you need the demonstrative das separately to be able to stress it.

Ins is much more common in oral communication (simply because it is shorter), while in das might show up in written form more often.

It is a bit similar to the difference between "it is" and "it's" in English.

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  • Wow, I never knew that the contraction of in das to ins was optional. Thanks for clarifying that. (Also, in case anyone thinks this observation is obvious, in Spanish, the contractions del (from de el) and al (from a el) are not optional; to use de el <NOUN> or a el <NOUN> would be substandard Spanish.) – kjo Jun 29 '18 at 14:50
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    If you have to choose, rather choose the contracted forms ins, zum, etc. The uncontracted forms are generally used to stress das or dem, in my experience. Even in writing, the contracted forms are more common. – Rudy Velthuis Jun 29 '18 at 14:54
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    There is an important difference! The demonstrative das can not be shortened. I.e.: „in DAS Zimmer geh ich nicht“ is different from „Ins ZIMMER geh ich nicht“. This is a prime reason for often using the contracted form even in formal writing! – Ludi Jul 9 '18 at 20:14
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Both of them mean the same. "in das" is just shortened to "ins". I am just warming up with my German and find that I tend to use "in das" in place of "ins". However, I usually hear Germans use "ins" more frequently.

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