German lesson 11 — motion, direction, and location

A confusing mess of vehicles moving in different directions

There are a number of German words related to motion, direction, and location. Here are some of the more common ones, gathered together (with a few secondary meanings, thrown in as well):

Relative vertical position

Prepositions showing relative vertical position

überover, above, or on top of something
überabout, via/by, across, beyond/past *
unterunder, underneath, below, or beneath something
unteramong or between **

* – shows a topic of discussion or a waypoint rather than a physical position
** – shows location relative to other things rather than up or down

Adverbs showing relative vertical position

hoch — in a high place
nach untendownstairs
niederlow (not tall), lowly
niedrig, tieflow, deep, or deeply
obenabove in a high location
oben, zuoberst, obenanat the top
oben, am Himmel, in der Luftat the top
untenunder, underneath, beneath, down below

Remember, an adverb can usually be converted to an adjective by adding a suffix

Adjectives showing relative vertical position

hoch-great, superior, important, exhalted ***
höchste-, oberste-lowest
nieder-, tiefer-lower
am niedrigste-, tiefste, unterstelowest
tief-profound (as in deep thought)

*** – shows relative importance rather than a physical position

a tall building in Germany
Photo by Dids from Pexels

Position within a building

Adverbs showing position within a building

oben, nach obenupstairs on a higher floor
unten, unten, nach untendie Treppe hinunter/downstairs

Nouns showing position within a building

Erdgeschossground- or entry level floor *
Etage, Stockfloor (as in 3rd floor)
Kellercellar/basement **
Obergeschossupper floor (usually with a number)
Untergeschossunderground floor (with a number if more than one)
Untergrundunderground (basement level or below or just underground)
Untergrundbahn, U-Bahnsubway train system

* – considered to be the 0th floor — the 1st floor is one flight above that
** – one flight below the ground floor, considered to be the -1 level

Vertical motion

Adverbs showing vertical motion


Turning and rotation

Verbs showing turning

links abbiegenleft turn
rechts abbiegenright turn

Adverbs showing rotation

im Uhrzeigersinnclockwise
gegen den Uhrzeigersinncounterclockwise

Directions and places on the earth

Adverbs showing direction


The above words can also be use as nouns, meaning that area or territory that lies in that direction; as in Dixie is another name for the U.S. Southeast

Nouns naming places on the earth

Nordpolnorth pole
Nullmeridianprime meridian
Südpolsouth pole
Wendekreis des Krebstropic of cancer
Wendekreis des Steinbockstropic of capricorn

A ship in a harbor
Photo by Martin Damboldt from Pexels

Marine and aviation

Adverbs for marine and aviation use

leewärtsleeward (away from the wind)
sonnenwärtssunward (towards the sun)
windwärtswindward (towards the wind)

Nouns for marine and aviation use

Backbordport (left side of the craft when facing forward)
Leeleeward side
Luvwindward side
Steuerbordstarboard (right side of the craft when facing forward)

Horizontal position and direction

Adverbs for horizontal position and direction

gerade aus, vorausstraight ahead
linksleft (on your left)
rechtsright (on your right)
richtigright (what’s correct — like eating right)
vorwärts, nach vornforward

Noun and Adjective

Rechtlaw *
Rechtright (such as the right to vote) *
übrig-left/left over (what’s left over) **

* – having to do with politics, law, and the legal system, not a direction
** – the remainder after taking some away, not a direction

Various places

Adverbs for use with places

außerhalb, außen, nach außen, draußenoutside
dort drüben, da drübenover there
von hierfrom here
innerhalb, innen, nach innen, drinneninside
nirgends, nirgendswonowhere
woher, wovonfrom where/whence *
wohinto where/whither *

* – whence and wither are archaic English, but make the point that two separate words can be used to mean “from where” and “to where”

When you can’t decide whether a place is to be declensed into the dative or accusative case, choose dative when describing its current location, or accusative when describing its destination

Adjectives for use with places


Prepositions for use with places


Nouns for use with places

Innereinside/interior (as in the interior of the stomach)
Wohnortplace where you live



von innen nach außeninside out
rechte Seite rausright side out


die Linkethe Left (political ideology)
das Rechtthe Right (political ideology)
Untergangdownfall, total ruin, perdition


Look for Jennie’s German Language Classroom for English Speakers on a Wednesday near the end of the month.

Copyright © 2020 by Jennifer Freeman. In particular, permission is not granted to assemble the parts of this series together and distribute them. You may of course post links to the individual posts.

Lesson 10, past tense verbs