to Nuuk, <in / to> Greenland

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Senior Member
English, USA
Consider the following sentences:

1a) For my next vacation, I'm planning to travel to Nuuk, in Greenland.
1b) For my next vacation, I'm planning to travel to Nuuk, to Greenland.

2a) This wristwatch was imported from Zurich, in Switzerland.
2b) This wristwatch was imported from Zurich, from Switzerland.

In modern-day English (though perhaps not in older forms of English), the structure seen in 1a/2a is normal, and the structure in 1b/2b is unusual and rare.

What about in languages besides English?

Are there any languages in which the “b”-structure is the normal one for expressing this meaning, or in which the “a”- and “b”-structures are about equally common?
  • AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Are there any languages in which the “b”-structure is the normal one for expressing this meaning,
    Hungarian is one of them.
    1a/2a would be incorrect.

    Jövőre elutazom Cancúnba, Mexikóba.
    (Next year I'm going to travel "to Cancún, to Mexico".)

    Rendeltem egy szőnyeget Aleppóból, Szíriából.
    (I ordered a carpet "from Aleppo, from Syria".)

    (We have "postpositions" in Hungarian.)
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    Senior Member
    Français - France
    In French:

    I'll start with example 2. It's always 2a:
    2a) Cette montre a été importée de Zurich, en Suisse.
    (This wristwatch was imported
    from Zurich, in Switzerland)

    Now for example 1, although the logic is also 1a, there is no distinction in French between "to" and "in". They are both translated by the same prepositions, but there are subtleties. Let me illustrate:
    • For city names, the preposition is "à", except if the city name starts with "Le" (like "Le Havre"), then the preposition is "au":
      Je vis à Nuuk (I live in Nuuk) / Je vais à Nuuk (I go to Nuuk)
      Je vis au Havre (I live in Le Havre) / Je vais au Havre (I go to Le Havre)

    • For country names, the preposition is "au" for masculine country names, and "en" for feminine country names(*):
      Je vis au Groenland (I live in Greenland) / Je vais au Groenland (I go to Greenland) - because it's "Le Groenland".
      Je vis en France (I live in France) / Je vais en France (I go to France) - because it's "La France".
    So in French, example 1 is:
    1a) Pour mes prochaines vacances, je projette de voyager à Nuuk, au Groenland.
    (For my next vacation, I'm planning to travel to Nuuk, in Greenland)

    (*) Now how do you tell if a country name is masculine or feminine? This is generally linked to the origin of the name. This page (in French) tries to sort it out ;)
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    Senior Member
    1)<<Greek does not distinguish between 1a & 1b: "στο(n.)/στη (f.) mean both to & in)>>
    ... στο Νουούκ, στη Γροιλανδία (... here to Nuuk, to/in Greenland)
    An alternative: ... στο Νουούκ, Γροιλανδία (... to Nuuk, Greenland).

    2a) ... από τη Ζυρίχη, στην Ελβετία (... from Zurich, in Switzerland)
    or better ... από τη Ζυρίχη της Ελβετίας (... from Zurich of Switzerland)
    or ... από τη Ζυρίχη, Ελβετία (... from Zurich, Switzerland).
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    Senior Member
    Yes: sóc a Nuuk, vaig a Nuuk. Usage is the same for all countries and places regardless of gender and article: sóc a Portugal (m) / a Espanya (f) / al Perú (m) / a la Xina (f). En is never used in a directional sense, it's always used in some locative cases (for example before aquest/aquell: sóc en aquest lloc / vaig a aquest lloc).


    Senior Member
    What about in languages besides English?
    In Russian 1b and 2b are detached specifying constructions, much like in English. While series of non-detached spatial adjects of the same nature are, in principle, possible in Russian (e.g. ~"he lived in Moscow on the Red Square" - note that the both adjects actually modify "lived" here and neither appears detached in any manner), there are considerable restrictions on such usage.
    1a and 2a are non-detached constructions (i.e. "Nook in Grenland" and "Zurich in Switzerland" would be proper noun groups, no commas or intonational marking necessary; in fact, simple detachments would be not even possible here). However, while a sentence otherwise analogous to 2a is quite possible and viable, 1a is undesirable for several reasons ("to Nook" and "in Greenland" would demand the same preposition, and the grammatical cases here wouldn't be very clearly distinguished in the spoken language due to unstressed inflections, together making the correct parsing somewhat problematic).
    Alternatives (sometimes clearly preferable) would be ~"to Greenlandic Nook" and ~"from Swiss Zurich".
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