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So I want to express the following in German:

Without wasting more time on the ground, they go down the stairs into the train station.

Here is a sentence of my own making:

Ohne mehr Zeit auf dem Boden zu verlieren, gehen sie die Treppe in den Bahnhof hinunter.

Grammar checker makes the following corrections:

Ohne mehr Zeit auf dem Boden zu verlieren, gehen sie die Treppe hinunter in den Bahnhof.

Is it absolutely necessary to place "in den Bahnhof" into the Nachfeld in this case?

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    Off topic: Die Verwendung von "Boden" dünkt mich seltsam. Zwar spricht man vom Erdboden, von Boxern (und Straßenschlägern) die zu Boden gehen, von Blut und Boden usw. und ich kann keine Regel angeben, aber bei einer Treppe, die in den Bahnhof führt, würde ich eher Platz, Straße, Gehweg usw. erwarten. "Boden" wird übrigens auch für "Dachboden" gemeint, ist hier aber wahrscheinliche keine Option. Dec 9, 2023 at 19:03
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    @userunknown: Da hast du völlig recht. Für mich würde "Boden" gegebenenfalls noch Sinn ergeben, wenn es um eine Treppe in einen Flughafen (oder besser direkt in ein Flugzeug) ginge. Dec 9, 2023 at 22:26
  • Assuming ground is used in the sense of ground level, I would propose an der Oberfläche or im Freien since it's apparently an underground station. Dec 10, 2023 at 18:34
  • The first sentence might suggest that there are two stairs, one leading to the station and another to a mall, say. Dec 11, 2023 at 20:12

3 Answers 3

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There is no use of the Nachfeld here, switch to a verb-final construction to see that. The choice is between using "hinunter" as a preverbal particle...

  • die Treppe in den Bahnhof hinuntergehen.

...or forming a directional adverbial based on "hinunter" with "Treppe" as its complement:

  • [die Treppe hinunter] [in den Bahnhof] gehen

The first variant relies on the possibility to use "Treppe" as a complement of "(hinunter)gehen". I find both acceptable.

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The sentences can be parsed differently in terms of grammar, as described in another answer.

However, I think this difference is not mandatory - both "gehen sie die Treppe in den Bahnhof hinunter" and "gehen sie die Treppe hinunter in den Bahnhof" can be understood as using the verb "hinuntergehen". This becomes evident when transforming the statement into an infinitive form:

Was tun sie? Die Treppe in den Bahnhof hinuntergehen.

vs.

Was tun sie? Die Treppe hinuntergehen in den Bahnhof.

Both sound fine, but there is another difference at work here that concerns "in den Bahnhof":

Ohne mehr Zeit auf dem Boden zu verlieren, gehen sie die Treppe in den Bahnhof hinunter.

In this case, "in den Bahnhof" could be seen as something characterising the particular set of stairs they use. Maybe they are multiple flights of stairs, and only one leads to the station. It would even make sense to follow up on this sentence with something like:

Bevor sie jedoch das Gebäude betreten, biegen sie nach links ab.

That is, it's the stairs that lead into the station and we can assume the protagonists actually enter, but it's just implied.

In contrast,

Ohne mehr Zeit auf dem Boden zu verlieren, gehen sie die Treppe hinunter in den Bahnhof.

unequivocably states that the protagonists actually do enter the station. Here, "in den Bahnhof" cannot specify "Treppe", but definitely indicates the destination of "hinuntergehen".

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I guess "on the ground" means the ground level here, because there is supposedly a way to enter an underground/deeper level of the train station. So "Without wasting more time on the ground" would be "Ohne (noch) Zeit auf der/dieser Ebene zu verlieren". There is small implied difference between the two orders of placing the verb: "gehen sie die Treppe in den Bahnhof hinunter" is like "go down the stairs that lead to the train station" and "gehen sie die Treppe hinunter in den Bahnhof" is like "go down the stairs and enter the train station". So the latter is more stressing the fact that the final condition is being at the station, whereas the former is just pointing into some direction. If you ask someone randomly on the street where to go, he might give the later answer (absolutely correct are both) looking first at the stairs, starting the sentence with "gehen sie die Treppe hinunter" and to follow with perhaps a small pause of consideration "in den Bahnhof" to make perfectly clear that there might be other stairs but that's the one to follow.

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