In this article, you’ll learn all about hin and her and how to use them in your everyday conversations. This will help you speak and sound more like a native German! Cool right?
Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
What’s the meaning of HIN and HER in German?
Difference to the adverbs of place
First of all, HIN and HER imply MOTION, unlike other words (that we call adverbs) that indicate PLACE. If an adverb indicates a clear place, then we can't be talking about movement.
Adverbs of place would be, for example:
- wo? (where?)
- hier (here)
- dort (there)
What are the adverbs of direction?
Hin and her don't just tell us that something is moving motion, they also give us a specific direction. That’s why we call them adverbs of direction.
Other adverbs of direction in German are, for example:
- weg (away)
- vorwärts / rückwärts (forward / backward)
- bergauf / bergab (uphill / downhill)
What are adverbs?!
“OK: place, motion, direction... but adverbs? What the heck are adverbs?” you might be thinking.
Adverbs are those lovely words that describe or modify other words: verbs, adjectives or even other adverbs. The only thing they don't describe is nouns - that's what adjectives do. Whenever you want to describe an action in detail, adverbs are there for you.
Exact meaning of HIN and HER
What’s so specific about HIN and HER?
HIN describes movement AWAY FROM the SPEAKER and towards a particular destination. A way of remembering this would be to think of the phrase “let hin go”.
HER describes movement away from a particular destination TOWARDS the SPEAKER. “I want her, let her come”.
From the Speaker
Toward a destination
(remember: Let hin go.)
From the destination
Toward the speaker
(remember: Let her come.)
Are there any equivalents to HIN and HER in English?
Before we talk about exactly when you can use hin and her in German, let’s talk about English. There aren't any close equivalents to hin and her in English, but we can compare them to “to” and “from”, for example:
- Wohin gehst du? (Where are you going TO?)
- Woher kommst du? (Where are you coming FROM?)
There are many articles on the web about the meaning of hin and her, but this article will specifically concentrate on how to use them, rather than on just a grammar explanation.
Are you ready? Let’s start!
How do we use HIN and HER in German?
Hin and her can be combined with other words and can show, emphasize or repeat their direction.
Sometimes you’ll see words with hin or her attached to them at beginning or the end. There’s no need to panic; they still do the same thing. It has to do with the speaker and the destination. Let's look at a few examples:
- Gehst du oft dahin? (Do you go there often?)
- Er kommt heraus. (He is coming out.)
- Der Mann klettert den Berg hinab. (The man climbs down the mountain.)
Easy, right? Let’s take a closer look and see what it looks like in detail:
With adverbs: Woher kommst du? (Where do you come from?)
Practically as soon as you start learning German, you’ll start using hin and her.
For example, when you learn to introduce yourself as a total beginner (A1 level), you'll learn how to say where you're from, and how to ask other people where they are from:
- Woher kommst du? (Where do you come from?) - Ich komme aus… (I’m from...)
Then, as you continue learning, you’ll be asked (or you’ll ask somebody):
- Wohin gehst du? (Where are you going?) - Ich gehe in die Stadt. (I’m going to the city.)
In the above examples hin and her were linked to the question Wo? (where?) and wo is a position adverb (as explained at the beginning of this article).
So, we started with wo (where) and added her/hin:
- wo (where): wo bist du? (where are you?)
- wo (where) + her = woher? (from where?)
- wo (where) + hin = wohin? (where to?)
There are also other position adverbs that can be combined with hin/her to indicate the direction to/from the speaker and so they become direction adverbs like:
- hier (here): sie wohnt hier (she lives here.)
- hier (here) + her = hierher: sie kommt hierher (she’s coming here.)
- hier (here) + hin = hierhin: er geht hierhin (He's going over here.)
- dort (there): er stand dort an der Ecke (He was standing there on the corner.)
- dort (there) + hin = dorthin: Wir fahren dorthin (We’re going there.)
- dort (there) + her = dorther: Sie kommt dorther (She comes from there.)
- überall (everywhere): Er ist überall beliebt. (He is popular everywhere.)
- überall (everywhere) + hin = überallhin: Sie geht überallhin. (She goes everywhere.)
- überall (everywhere) + her = überallher: Er kommt überallher. (He is from everywhere.
German has separate words for position (hier, dort, überall) and direction (hierher, dorthin, überallhin).
Do you see what happened there? When we combine her and hin with adverbs of place, they transform themselves into adverbs of direction.
With verbs: Komm her! (Come here!)
As you advance more in learning German, you’ll notice that hin and her can be used to describe some interesting scenes, as in this example:
- Er lief hinter ihr her. (He ran after her.) <3
Sorry, guys, the same example could apply to girls too:
- Sie lief hinter ihm her. (She ran after him.)
That’s love! 🙂
In the above examples, her works like a separable prefix to the verb laufen (herlaufen). That means sometimes it’s placed at the end of the sentence and sometimes it’s glued to the verb.
The same logic applies to these examples:
herkommen: If you’re standing somewhere and ask somebody to come to you, you could say:
- Komm her! (Come here!)
- Wenn man genau hinschaut, sieht man den Fehler. (If you look closely, you’ll see the error.)
herschauen: If you want someone to see what you have, you can say:
- Schau mal her, sieh was ich habe! (Look, see what I have!)
sich hersetzen: If you’re asking someone to come and join you at your table, you could say:
- Komm, setz dich her (zu mir)! (Come, sit down with me!)
sich hinsetzen: When a mother is angry at her kid, she could say something like:
- Jetzt ist Schluss! Setz dich hin! (That is it! Sit down!)
Thus, hin and her can be used as separable prefixes for many verbs in German.
With prepositions (plus verb)
Kommen Sie bitte herein! (Please come in!)
Hin and her can also be linked to prepositions (words like in, an, and auf) to give us more detail, or even to change the meaning of the verb in the sentence.
her + unter + springen => herunterspringen:
- Das Kind sprang vom Baum herunter. (The child jumped down from the tree.)
Let’s examine the logic behind the above sentence!
In this example, we made the verb springen (to jump) more specific with the preposition "unter" (under). But there's more. "her" also implies that the speaker's perspective is from under the tree.
There are also many other examples:
hin + aus + sehen → hinaussehen:
- Er sah aus dem Fenster hinaus. (He looked out the window.)
hin + auf + steigen → hinaufsteigen
- Wir stiegen die Treppe hinauf. (We climbed up the stairs.)
hin + über + sehen → hinübersehen
- Er sah lange zu ihr hinüber. (He looked over at her for a long time.)
hin + ein* + gehen => hineingehen:
- Sie ging in das Haus hinein. (She walked into the house.)
her + ein* + kommen => hereinkommen:
- Kommen Sie bitte herein! (Please come in!)
*The word “ein” is not a preposition in modern German. In this case it comes from the preposition “in”, which was in use in the older version of this verb.
HIN and HER shortcuts
In the spoken language you’ll often hear short versions of herunter, hinaus, hinauf, herein etc.
It looks like this:
- hinaus/heraus → raus
- hinein/herein → rein
- hinauf/herauf → rauf
- hinunter/herunter → runter
- hinüber/herüber → rüber
In this case, hin and her just transform themselves to one single letter “r”, which is very convenient, right? It doesn't even matter any more if it is her or hin, both versions sound the same. They keep their two different meanings, however (to/away from the speaker) depending on the verb and the context.
Here is a visual presentation of these words and their meanings:
Since we're talking about hin and her in different kinds of sentences, here are some nice example sentences that you could start using right away:
herein → rein - If you’re inside and you hear “knock, knock” on the door, you can say:
- Komm rein! Die Tür ist geöffnet. (Come in! The door is open.)
hinein → rein - If you want to go inside from outside, you’ll simply say:
- Gehen wir rein. Es wird kühl. (Let's go inside. It’s getting cold.)
heraus → raus - If you want to leave the house, you can say:
- Ich gehe raus. (I’m going outside.)
hinaus → raus - If someone is waiting for you outside, you can say:
- Warte einen Moment! Ich komme raus. (Wait a moment! I’m coming out.)
herauf → rauf - If you’re on the second floor of your house and someone is downstairs, you could say:
- Komm rauf! (Come up!)
hinauf → rauf - If you’re on the first floor and want to go upstairs, you’ll say:
- Ich komme rauf. (I’m coming up.)
herunter → runter - When a child climbs to a tree, the mother could say:
- Komm runter! (Come down!)
→ runter - And the child could answer:
- Ich komme runter. (I’m coming down.)
herüber → rüber - A neighbour who is making some food in the garden could tell you over the fence:
- Komm rüber! (Come over!)
hinüber → rüber - And you could accept neighbour’s invitation with these words:
- Ich komme rüber. (I’m coming over.)
Special meanings of HIN and HER in German
Sometimes hin and her can have nice special meanings:
1. "hin" often suggests the meaning “down” like in the verb sich hinlegen:
- Er war müde und legte sich hin. (He was tired and decided to lay down.)
2. "her" can mean “ago”:
- Das ist schon lange her. (That was a long time ago.)
3. "vor sich hin" means “to oneself”:
- Er murmelte etwas vor sich hin. (He murmured something to himself.)
4. Hin und wieder means “sometimes”, “every now and then”:
- Hin und wieder bekommen wir einen Brief von ihm. (We get a letter from him every now and then.)