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In German-speaking regions, it is not unusual for places (streets, restaurants, hotels, etc.) to bear names starting with a preposition. For example, in Vienna there is a public square named "Am Hof", and a restaurant named "Zur Stadt Krems". How is this built-in preposition treated when the name as a whole is the complement of a preposition in a sentence?

For example, consider the following two English sentences and their German translations, which are not problematic for the simple names "McDonald's" and "Heldenplatz":

  • Let's go to McDonald's.
    • Gehen wir zu McDonald's.
  • Let's meet at Heldenplatz.
    • Treffen wir uns am Heldenplatz.

How would we form the corresponding sentences with "Zur Stadt Krems" and "Am Hof"?

  • Let's go to Zur Stadt Krems.
    • (?) Gehen wir zu Zur Stadt Krems.
    • (?) Gehen wir zur Stadt Krems.
  • Let's meet at Am Hof.
    • (?) Treffen wir uns an Am Hof.
    • (?) Treffen wir uns am Hof.

That is, does one include the preposition that is part of the proper noun, or does one omit it? Having two prepositions in a row (particularly if they're the same one) sounds strange to my ear. But on the other hand, omitting the preposition leads to ambiguity—"Gehen wir zur Stadt Krems" could mean the speaker wants to go to the actual city of Krems rather than the restaurant named for it, and "Treffen wir uns am Hof" sounds like the speaker wants to meet at some unspecified yard or farm rather than the public square.

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  • Of what entitity should "Zur Stadt Krems" be a noun to? I'd understand "Stadt Krems". "Am Hof" only makes sense as a street name. May 16, 2023 at 10:39

1 Answer 1

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Generally speaking I would say, that German native speakers avoid sentences where two prepositions appear in sequence. What we say instead, depends.

Gehen wir zur Stadt Krems.

This has a very clear meaning, but it's not the intended meaning. It means:

Let's go to the city of Krems.
Let's go to the town of Krems.

So, this doesn't work in German. Instead we say

Gehen wir ins Restaurant Zur Stadt Krems.
Let's go to the restaurant Zur Stadt Krems.

But we don't have this problem in this sentence:

Treffen wir uns am Hof.
Let's meet at the court.

The square with the name Am Hof was in the center of the former Pfalz (palace) of the House of Babenberg (dukes and margraves of Austria before the Habsburg dynasty). So, this place is what is left over from this court, and this is why »Treffen wir uns am Hof« and »Treffen wir uns auf dem Platz Am Hof« means the same.

In Vienna is also the Restaurant »Zum Schinakl« (»Schinakl« is the viennese dialect form of Schinakel which is also only used in Austria and means a small boat):

  1. Gehen wir zum Schinakl.
  2. Gehen wir zum Restaurant Zum Schinakl.

#2 is always possible, but #1 is used even more often, because usually the context makes clear what is really meant.

If such a context is given, even »Gehen wir zur Stadt Krems« will work, although the tendency to be interpreted as going to the town is still bigger than the tendency to interpret »Gehen wir zum Schinakl« as »Let's go to the boat«. The reason for this difference is, that there is only one town named Krems, but there are hundreds of little boats. In »zum Schinakl« is a definite article packed in the word »zum« (zum = zu dem), so you are talking about one specific Schinakl, and if you didn't talk about a specific boat just before, this is more likely to be interpreted as the restaurants name.

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  • Unless "Stadt" is part of the official name, wouldn't you just say "Gehen wir nach Krems" (unlikely if you're in Vienna) or "Fahren wir nach Krems"? Or do you use "zu" in those cases in Austrian German? May 16, 2023 at 13:24
  • I, born in Berlin, might say 'Gehen wir zum Stadt Krems' when I assume that the others know that I'm speaking about a restaurant. In writing, quotes might be used to mark "Stadt Krems" as a name 'Gehen wir zum "Stadt Krems"'
    – Bodo
    May 16, 2023 at 18:08
  • I'd say Gehn'ma zum Kremserwirt.
    – Janka
    May 16, 2023 at 19:34
  • This is generally a good answer; note that navigation systems when you set them to German have to solve this issue too and have to say awkward things like "rechts abbiegen auf Am Hof" or "rechts abbiegen in die Straße Am Hof". There is no really satisfactory solution.
    – wonderbear
    May 16, 2023 at 19:52
  • @Raketenolli: If you want to go to the city, you usually say »Fahren wir nach Krems« so that's correct, but that was not the question. The question was: »What does ›Gehen wir zur Stadt Krems.‹ mean?« May 17, 2023 at 8:27

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