I thought that the particle (used as suffix or as prefix) "hin" always conveys the meaning of a destination or movement away from the speaker, while the opposite (movement coming towards the speaker) held for the particle "her". The easiest example that comes to mind is of "wohin" vs "woher", that enquire about a destination and an origin respectively.

However, as I learn more words in German, I am encountering "her" in words that also have to do with outward movement (away from the speaker), such as "heraus", which I understand to mean "[going] toward the exterior".

Is this an exception to the hin/her rule, or did I just understand that rule incorrectly?

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    Please could you clarify which parts of your question still need clarification after you found a partly answer by yourself? – IQV Nov 8 at 13:38
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    @IQV - It’s perfectly ok to self-answer, this doesn’t invalidate the question. – Stephie Nov 8 at 14:16
  • @Stephie Sage ich ja auch nichts dagegen. Aber z8080 schreibt in seiner eigenen Antwort selbst, dass ihm/ihr noch nicht alles im Detail klar sei. Aber wie soll man das beantworten oder ausarbeiten, wenn man gar nicht weiß, was genau denn über die gefundene Website hinaus unklar ist? – IQV Nov 8 at 14:23
  • @IQV Ok, danke für die Klarstellung, kam missverständlich rüber. Die Antwort muss auch noch mal überarbeitet werden... – Stephie Nov 8 at 14:25
  • 'outward movement (away from the speaker), such as "heraus", which I understand to mean "[going] toward the exterior".' - yes, but not away from the speaker, or "hinaus" would be used. – O. R. Mapper Nov 8 at 16:21

aus dem Haus heraus

The confusion you feel is because you are looking at the wrong thing: there's an object in the sentence to leave or enter, so it must be the thing hin and her are about. Right? Wrong! And you know this already.

Hin and her aren't about an object in the sentence. They are about leaving and entering the realm of the speaker:

  • hin means away from the speaker

  • her means towards the speaker

So, this is all a matter where the speaker positions herself.

Er geht aus dem Haus hinaus. (The speaker is inside the house.)

Er geht aus dem Haus heraus. (The speaker is outside the house.)

The house isn't even important.

Jemand tritt hinaus. (The speaker is inside, someone is leaving.)

Jemand tritt heraus. (The speaker is outside, someone is coming.)


In time, hin and her are about things the speaker faces (the future) and things which already passed by (the past).

Es ist eine Weile hin. (It's a while until it's due.)

Es ist eine Weile her. (It has been a while.)

  • I agree with you, but the use of hin and her isn't as strictly logical as your answer implies. Habits play a very important role, too. Some verb forms are used much more often with one of the prefixes than the other, even when, according to your rule, they should be used differently. – Philipp Nov 8 at 19:25
  • Simple rules first, complications later. – Janka Nov 8 at 19:27
  • I learned that in class when we discussed a translation (target language German) and I argued the same way you did, but many others disagreed. This was an MA translation program, where the students are generally aware of such problems. – Philipp Nov 8 at 19:29
  • @Philipp can we get some examples, please? – Stephie Nov 8 at 19:43
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    > auf der anderen Seite wieder hinauf/herauf both possibilities have perfectly logical justifications: "hinauf" relates to the horizontal component of the (presumably sloped, not 100% vertical) climbing, which is still directed away from the speaker. "herauf" relates to the vertical component of the same movement, which is directed back "onto the speaker's level". – Hans-Jakob Nov 9 at 8:32

I DO agree with Janka's "Simple rules first, complications later". As it is 'later' now, I am going to add a conceptual difference or two.

Some words of solace first. :-)

The concept of German -hin and -her is identical to the English concept of to and fro. Look at the following sentences:

This guy's getting on my nerves! He's running to and fro all day long.

Dieser Typ geht mir auf die Nerven! Den ganzen Tag rennt er hin und her.

You can safely transfer this concept to all adverbs containing hin- oder her-.

===========================

The two concepts are not necessarily congruent in verbs or do not appear in both languages to the same degree:

A) plus/minus identical, if we think laterally:

Stell das hin! = Put it down! (-> to that place there)

Da geh' ich nicht hin. = I won't go there!

Woher hast du das? = Where did you get that? (-> from were did you bring it here?)

However, B):

Die Tassen gehören nicht dáhin. / Da gehören die Tassen nicht hin. (= 2 signals: da + hin) Meaning: We don't put the cups there, but we usually say: The cups don't go here. (!) Tja, ... ;-)

Das gehört nicht hierher! (= 2 signals: hier + her) = That doesn't belong to the subject! No to/fro(m), here/there in English. Mental acrobatics are needed to image the German concept: from you, speaker (= B), to here, to our subject (= A)

Cheers!

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Sorry, I should have probably bothered to google this before asking, which would have taken me to this article on The German Professor blog, which explains why this issue is confusing to many.

As I understand it from that article, the two particles are indeed used in the directional senses that I mentioned in my question, and that is in fact their mainstream usage. However, a lot of room for exception still exists based on ambiguity in terms of the positioning of the speaker, the perspective from which the utterance is made, etc. Additionally, the two terms also have other senses not even having to do with space at all, but with time, e.g. "eine Weile her" ("a while ago").

Some room still remains for further clarification though, should anyone want to contribute :)

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    Kudos for adding your research and it’s perfectly ok to answer your own question. But there isn’t an answer in the question, which is what we call a link-only answer and usually delete. Think about how often have you found that links on the Internet no longer work - if that happens, where would the future readers find the answer? Please edit your post with at least the most important pieces of information from the site you linked to, thanks! And if you cite something, don’t forget the proper attribution - you wouldn’t want to be accused of plagiarism, would you? – Stephie Nov 8 at 14:08
  • Good point, thank you – z8080 Nov 8 at 16:36

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