The "Deutsche Bahn" - our German railway exmonopolist - is driving me nuts each time I ride the train, when the conductors tell us

In 5 minutes, we arrive Bremen

consistently in all trains and from all speakers.

In my young days, I learned it to be "arrive at" or "arrive in" or "reach" ... did I miss something, or is this a coprorate-language-school-quirk?

  • What verb is used in German for trains? Is it transitive? – Peter Shor Dec 21 '11 at 14:32
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    You can reach a town "erreichen" - "Wir erreichen Bremen in 5 Minuten". Or you can "arrive at" or "get to"a town ("ankommen") "Wir kommen in 5 Minuten in Bremen an". "Erreichen" is more of a global move or for reaching someone on the phone. For local navigation, you would use "find" - "Sie finden den Bäcker neben Gleis 5" – Josch Dec 21 '11 at 14:47
  • Thanks. I was wondering whether "arrive Bremen" was a word-for-word translation from German, but since "ankommen" also takes a preposition, that doesn't seem to be the reason for this error. – Peter Shor Dec 22 '11 at 14:42

Presumably the conductors are not scholars of English.

As you have observed, the normal English usage is:

  • "We arrive at Bremen" -- we arrive at the station named "Bremen"
  • "We arrive in Bremen" -- we arrive at the station in Bremen

A British conductor would normally use more words:

  • "In five minutes we will be arriving at Birmingham New Street"

I imagine that someone at Deutche Bahn has come up with something which, although not correct English, is easy for non-English-speaking conductors to say, acceptably understandable to native English speakers, and easily understandable for people of all native languages with some small amount of English knowledge.

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  • No they are not - the Bahn has a dedicated training-track for that. You might be right - but then again - he should have used "reach" - simple as that I guess. Thanks though :) – Josch Dec 21 '11 at 14:46
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    but you have to consider that, for example, a Russian, Japanese or Chinese tourist might find "arrive" easier than "reach". Either because it's taught earlier in English lessons, found more often in phrase books, or uses phonemes that are more familiar. I am, of course, speculating, and probably attributing DB with more thought than they actually applied. – slim Dec 21 '11 at 15:18
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    The British conductor' version sounds the most natural to me, and your 'normal English usage' sounds unnatural, clipped, what a foreigner might say after reading a grammar book. 'We are arriving at Bremen' is slightly better but just 'We are arriving' is the first minimal change that doesn't sound 'off'. 'At' is just wrong with cities/countries, but is OK with the train station: 'We are arriving at the Bremen train station'. – Mitch Dec 21 '11 at 15:21
  • In the British case I believe 'we shall be arriving' is the correct usage – Moog Dec 21 '11 at 16:56
  • @Josch - 'reach' would not be my first choice in this instance. "In 5 minutes, we reach Bremen" may be grammatically correct but it sounds goofy to me :) – Lynn Dec 21 '11 at 18:48

You missed nothing, "we arrive Bremen" is incorrect.

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    But if he'd said, "Bremen -- 10 minutes!" no one would think a thing of it. Funny how leaving out one word makes it grammatically incorrect, but leaving out several words makes it an abbreviation or title and thus acceptable. :-) – Jay Dec 21 '11 at 15:35
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    Perhaps the announcer is warning Bremen of our arrival? We arrive, Bremen. – user13141 Dec 21 '11 at 15:51
  • @onomatomaniak - LOL – Josch Jan 12 '12 at 14:28

Not only is We arrive Bremen missing a preposition, it is the wrong tense. In five minutes we will arrive in Bremen would be right, though British guards say We are now arriving at Bristol Central, which is grammatical though often factually incorrect.

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  • You remind me of an aeroplane PA announcing "We will be taking off momentarily". Correct, but not in the sense the speaker intended. – slim Dec 21 '11 at 15:50
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    ... however, "In five minutes we arrive in Bremen" does not have a serious problem with tense. I don't know the name of the tense, but it is the same as a in the sentence "tonight we dance". – slim Dec 21 '11 at 15:52
  • Indeed. There is no Bristol Central: it's Bristol Temple Meads. ;-) To reiterate, you can be "in" a town or a country, but you are "at" a station. – Jeremy McGee Dec 21 '11 at 20:38
  • @Tim: I don't think you can arrive 'into' Penn Station in American English, although I can certainly see somebody saying 'in' Penn Station instead of 'at' Penn Station, since it's a huge underground complex (Penn Station, NYC, that is). – Peter Shor Dec 22 '11 at 14:47

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