auf … zu…

This probably isn’t worth its own post so I’ll just ask it here (although things never end up being as simple as I envision them). In my lessons I’ve come to the following two sentences:

“Das Auto fährt auf das Tunnel zu.”
” Die Kinder rennen auf das Meer zu.”

I’ve tried to look up what exactly is being conveyed by the auf…zu construction. It almost looks like “into” but I’m used to seeing simply “in” for that. Any help is appreciated.


(originally asked by Joe at

One comment on “auf … zu…

  1. Good question… this double preposition is confusing for many, I bet.
    So…. “auf etwas zu” means a movement of the own body directly toward something or someone without reaching it/the person.

    “Ich renne/fahre/gehe/komme/schwimme/fliege/tanze/… auf dich zu.”
    “I run/drive/walk/come/swim/fly/dance toward you…”

    I cannot “geben” a plate “auf dich zu” because the plate is not moving itself.

    An important use is the combination with “kommen”, which in an abstract sense means to approach someone in some way about a certain subject… like

    “Wegen der Bücher komme ich nochmal auf dich zu.”
    ” As for the books, I will get at you at some point.”

    Hope that clears it up…

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