Von welchem Gleis aus fährt der Zug?

What 'aus' means in this case? I reckon that it could be the same sentence without it and it would be correct and the meaning wouldn't change.

Von welchem Gleis fährt der Zug?

  • means "als Ausgangspunkt/Start" – äüö Feb 11 '20 at 7:26

"Von X aus" is a circumposition. It works like a preposition, but precedes and follows the governed word. It's not useful to ask what either half of it means, any more than to ask what the meaning of the first letter in a word is.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that the right-hand part is redundant just because there is also a regular preposition "von" that could also be used - the meanings are similar but not interchangeable. In particular, von ... aus definitely describes the origin of a directed motion, while basic "von" has many other figurative meanings.

  • 1
    The fact that the second element aus is not obligatory has been used as one of several arguments that this is not a genuine circumposition like von X wegen. The alternative analysis is that von X is a prepositional phrase, that aus is a postposed adverbial modifier of that phrase, and that the whole structure is still undergoing grammaticalization to become a true circumposition eventually. This analysis would contradict your second paragraph. – Schmuddi Feb 11 '20 at 16:23
  • @Schmuddi I feel that should be elaborated into a second answer rather than remain hidden in a comment. – Jan Feb 21 '20 at 9:44

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