I think that "zur Universität" is a dative prepositional phrase describing place. That means that "in Berlin" is either

  1. the same, or
  2. an accusative prepositional phrase describing place, or
  3. Dative indirect object

If it's the first, then I don't know the rule that says why it comes before "zur Universität".

If I rewrite it as

"Meine Tochter geht zur Universität. Die Universität ist in Berlin." Then "in Berlin" is clearly a dative prep phrase describing place.

I half-remember a rule somewhere about ordering things in the order of least specific to most, which might apply here.

(But I also know that "zur Schule" is a special case; you'd think it would be accusative since it works with geht, but it just isn't; similar situation with "zu Hause".)

  • 6
    In German there is nothing like an "indirect object". German has these four types of objects: genitive object (Wir gedenken der Toten), dative object (Der Hut gehört dem Mann), accusative object (Sie sieht das Kind) and prepositional object (Estragon wartet auf Godot) Oct 13, 2021 at 5:13
  • "... zur Universität in Berlin" may be understood in a way that "in Berlin" describes the location of the university. However, with the word order "... in Berlin zur Universität" the words "in Berlin" clearly describe the location where the action (going to university) takes place; it is clear that these words don't describe the location of the university. Oct 15, 2021 at 15:50

2 Answers 2


There is no fixed rule for the order in German, but much influence by the context. If somebody told you before, that his son visits the university in Munich, you might well start with university either. I personally find it convenient to start with Berlin, and then narrow it down to the university. But zur Universität gehen can also be considered as an multi-word activity similar to zur Schule gehen and in this meaning is the separation might not be desired.

I guess, you are referring to the TeKaMoLo rule (see question in the Related section on the right hand side), which is quite unknown to native speakers and unreliable.


Meine Tochter geht in Berlin zur Universität.

In this sentence you say, that your daughter is located somewhere in Berlin while she is walking. And the target of her walk is the university.

Meine Tochter geht zur Universität in Berlin.

In this version you say, that your daughter walks towards the university, and this university is in Berlin. In this version it is possible, that your daughter is outside of Berlin. Just her target is a specific place in Berlin.

If you want to say, that your daughter attends the university of Berlin as a student, you'd better use one of these sentences:

Meine Tochter studiert an der Universität Berlin.
Meine Tochter besucht die Universität in Berlin.

I know, that in many regions of Germany people say "sie geht zur Schule" when they mean that the girl attends school, but I never heard "sie geht zur Universität" when she in fact studies there. In Austria (where I live) "sie geht zur ..." just means, that she walks to the building.

  • 1
    This seems to be a meaning of "to go" which isn't covered by gehen, and this can be confusing for learners; I'm not even certain that English speakers even recognize it a separate meaning, and the boundary between gehen in/zu and besuchen seems rather fuzzy. In English you could say "She goes to the Clipper Closet to get her hair cut." It would sound unnatural to say *She visits the Clipper Closet ...", though obviously that's what is meant.
    – RDBury
    Oct 13, 2021 at 8:09
  • 7
    As a native German (born in Berlin), without specific context I would understand "geht in Berlin zur Universität" as "attends a/the university" where "Universität" is a general category. The phrases with "studiert an der/einer Universität" or "besucht die Universität" sound more formal. To me, "studiert an der Universität Berlin" would mean a specific university either named "Universität Berlin" or the only university in Berlin. But there are 3 of them. I would rather say "studiert an einer Universität in Berlin" or use the specific name "studiert an der FU/HU/TU Berlin".
    – Bodo
    Oct 13, 2021 at 14:36
  • 1
    The simplest and most idiomatic way to say it is: "Meine Tochter studiert in Berlin".
    – fdb
    Oct 14, 2021 at 10:39

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