zu Hause or nach Hause?

Idiomatic expressions often create confusion for learners of German. Take, for example, the expressions zu Hause and nach Hause. Even though nach and zu are both dative prepositions that can mean to, in this instance zu means at. The phrase zu Hause therefore means at home, while nach Hause means moving in a direction toward home as in I’m going home. (Ich gehe nach Hause.)

You might also have noticed that the word Haus also has an -e suffix in both of these phrases. This -e is in fact a vestige of an older dative ending that used to be added to masculine and neuter singular nouns in the dative case. Now that ending is optional and in most cases sounds antiquated. However, the ending is still used in the phrases zu Hause and nach Hause.

Idiomatic expressions are many and breaking them down into their individual parts often doesn’t aid understanding whatsoever. It is best to learn them as fixed phrases.

9 comments on “zu Hause or nach Hause?
  1. Hussien says:

    jaa, klar
    Vielen Dank

  2. This barely gets a mention but I find it quite important.

    Sure nach Hause implies movement to your home and zu Hause means that you’re already
    at home, BUT what happens when you need to say “I just came home” this action implies movement, but at the same time means that you’re already in the place (at home). So what you have to say in this case is “Ich bin nach Hause angekommen”.

    • That is actually incorrect. The correct formulation would be:

      • Ich bin gerade zu Hause angekommen.

      Or you could also say:

      • Ich bin gerade nach Hause gekommen.

      Notice the difference in verbs: kommen implies movement (nach Hause), while ankommen conveys the point of arrival (zu Hause).

    • Fröhlich Anja says:

      The correct version would be: Ich bin gerade nach Hause gekommen. Grammar is not interested in any interpretations, it deals with the sheer facts: “kommen” (come) is a verb of movement – so you use “nach Hause”. Just like Englsih: for movement you use “home” – for being in the house you use “at home” – the rule is the same…

  3. Bella says:

    Vielen Dank! Ich bin immer verwirrt, wann soll ich ” zu Hause oder nach Hause” benutzen und nach dem Lesen habe ich die Bedeutung schon verstanden. Danke schön!

  4. Moayad Al-Mahamead says:

    How about “Der Chef ist im Haus”?

    • “Der Chef ist im Haus” is a different idiomatic usage. It means something like, “The boss is in the building.” It indicates that the boss is currently present at the workplace.

  5. Adds says:

    How would you re-word “Jetzt gehen wir aber nach Hause”?

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