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Wie komme ich auf die Lorenzkirche?

OR

Wie komme ich in die Lorenzkirche?

My teacher said that "in" is the right choice in this situation but I know that "auf" can be used to point direction as well when talking about public institutions. Or am I wrong? Are there any exceptions to the rule?

  • Note there is a Bavarian dialect form of "nach" which uses "auf". Der Huber braucht an neien Anzug - Er fahrt heut' auf Minga oan kafa – tofro Apr 1 at 6:43
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The word in means to go inside a building, a city or another location. Thus, saying

Wie komme ich in die Lorenzkirche?

translates to "How do I get into the Lorenzkirche?" and is the correct preposition.

The word auf means to go on top of something. So saying

Wie komme ich auf die Lorenzkirche?

Would imply you want to climb on the roof. However, you use it if you want to visit the church tower.

"Ich möchte auf den Kirchturm gehen."

Because the Kirchturm is a tall enough building, this construction works. The same works for high buildings.

Wenn Du in New York bist, musst Du unbedingt aufs Empire State Building.

edit: As pointed out in the comments. You can also go on top of a large area, like the famous Alexanderplatz in Berlin or the Markt / Marktplatz.

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    The same works for open places, for example Wie komme ich auf den Alexanderplatz, although zum or zur might be more appropriate when you're asking for directions from further away. – Hans-Martin Mosner Mar 30 at 12:42
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    But what about public places such as "Markt" and "Bank"? How come "auf die Bank" is correct? ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE? – Rare Mar 30 at 17:53
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    You can't say "Ich gehe auf die Bank", unless you literally mean it. You can say however "Ich bringe Geld auf die Bank". At least I have the imagination, that you stack your money, which explains the word "auf". If you just want to go to the building, you say "Ich gehe zur Bank." – infinitezero Mar 30 at 19:05
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    @infinitezero But there is ich gehe auf das Gymnasium/ auf das Standesamt etc were ppl are not going on top if the building. So there seems to be something about that rule that Rare's teacher mentioned... – Arsak Mar 30 at 21:02
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    @infinitezero: "Ich gehe auf die Bank." is indeed used in some dialects, but not in Hochdeutsch. – O. R. Mapper Apr 1 at 5:16
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What you actually want to say is

Wie komme ich zur Lorenzkirche

This means: how can i reach it; independently of what I am doing then: entering it, climbing its roof, or whatever.

For the meanings of in die and auf die see Infinitezero*s answer on this page. But please be aware that you have to use a definite article:

Wie komme ich in die Lorenzkirche?

You could say that when you find it with closed doors and you are wondering what to do to get access into the church. If you leave the die out, people would understand you anyway, but they would immediately understand that you do not speak the language well.

Wie komme ich auf die Lorenzkirche?

You could say that when you wanted to climb its roof. A fire fighter could ask this question when the church is burning and he needs to climb it to fight the fire from above.

Fun fact: You can also say

Wie komme ich auf die Lorenzkirche?

when that church came just to your mind, for no obvious reason, and you wonder why it did. Auf etwas kommen means "to come up with something", e.g. something like an an idea"

  • I read somewhere that "auf" can be used when talking about public locations and knowing that "bank" and"markt" are compatible with "auf" I thought that "Kirche" was as well. Are there any other public spaces that can use "auf" as a preposition? Maybe for "schule"? – Rare Apr 1 at 2:10
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"Auf welche Schule gehst du" means to visit one certain school regularly. But we say otherwise regularly "morgen werden ich wieder in die Schule gehen". The reason for that might be--if you are interested in my speculation:

  1. that certain important institutions had been built on hills. At least that situation is allegedly the case for "auf St. Pauli" (a borough named after [a church?] named after a saint); Also, bank (the financial institution, mentioned in a comment because of Geld auf der Bank) is very significantly homophone with small Erhebungen (hills, river banks, sand banks), and I'm not sure the homophony were coincidental, although the savings bank is traditionally explained as a bench, the proverbial table in "put money on the table", but either way it's semantically up.

  2. Specifically for schools, a comparison to En. off would work as far as "went off" means to have visited and graduated; Although, that is rather abgehen, see Schulabgänger, the roots are deceptively similar in Proto-European *Hep-. I'm simplifying there, I have no solid reason to assume that various roots and meanings go back to a single root, and *upo "up" seems to be a bigger contrast (even if reconstructed as *h3ewp-) to the various *h2- prepositions, including those for English in, on, under, off, of; You can tell that there's been confusion involved, if the root of up is supposed to have once meant "under" a couple of millenia ago, according to the Indo-European theory. Anyhow, ab means away from, so nobody is thinking of it that way.

Other places that one can stand-on exist, too, obviously. For example, we go on the street, that is auf der Straße and we go auf die Straße (I am not sure whether that's onto or also just on). By the way, we say unter Leuten "between people, in public company".

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I guess you are referring to something like

Ich muss heute auf das Einwohnermeldeamt/auf die Polizeiwache

This only applies, if one is addressing the institution as opposed to building/location . For locations there is a separate question here.

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