German Prepositions

Learn all about German prepositions in this easy-to-follow free online lesson. You will find a list of prepositions used in everyday German together with lots of examples and explanations. Essential reading for anyone learning German.


German Prepositions

First of all, in case you are wondering:

'What is a preposition?'

Quite simply, a preposition is a word which describes a relationship between a noun or a pronoun and another element of a sentence. Let's take a look at a few examples in English before we get started.

I will highlight all prepositions in blue for better understanding.


On the phone

By the phone

Behind the phone

Inside the phone

Below the phone 


Easy, right?

Well, maybe in English. German prepositions, however, are more difficult to learn because of those pesky German cases. Confused, don't be! All will become clear very soon.



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So what have the cases got to do with the German prepositions?

Actually, quite a lot! In German, the case of a pronoun and noun is determined by the preposition it occurs with. To confuse matters, some prepositions take just one case, others can take two depending on the sentence.


Why is it so important to learn which case a German preposition takes?

Quite simply, because the case will decide how the nouns following the preposition are 'declined' (i.e. formed).

The following three tables will list:


1. German prepositions which only take the accusative case


2. German prepositions which only take the dative case


3. German prepositions which can take both the accusative and dative cases


N.B It is easier to learn those prepositions which take just one case to begin with.


1. German prepositions which only take the accusative case

The first table listed here shows the prepositions which will only ever take the accusative case, i.e. they will take an object in the accusative case, and thus follow the grammatical rules of this case. (For more information about the accusative case, please click here.) For clarity's sake, the object taking the accusative case will be highlighted in blue.


Preposition In English Example Example in English
bis until / to / by Bis nächsten Freitag muss die Arbeit fertig sein The work has to be completed by next Friday
durch through / by Ich habe durch die Nacht gearbeitet I worked through the night
entlang along / down Ich fahre die Straße entlang I drive down the street
für for Wir tun alles für ihn We do everything for him
gegen about / against / contrary to Gegen den Wind Against the wind
ohne without Ohne meine Tasche kann ich nicht einkaufen gehen I cannot go shopping without my bag
um around / at Um die Ecke ist mein Haus My house is around the corner
wider against Wider meine Beratung hat er das gekauft He bought it against my advice


2. German prepositions which only take the dative case

The table here shows the prepositions which will only ever take the dative case, i.e. they will take an object in the dative case and thus follow the grammatical rules of this case. (For more about the dative case, please click here.) For clarity's sake, the object taking the dative case will be highlighted in blue.


Preposition In English Example Example in English
ab from Ab nächster Woche bin ich wieder zu erreichen I will be available again from next week
aus due to / from /out of Aus Sicherheitsgründen bitten wir Sie, Ihr Gepäck nicht unbeaufsichtigt zu lassen Due to security reasons we ask you not to leave your luggage unattended
außer apart from / except for / besides Außer meiner Mutter war niemand da There was no-one there apart from my mother
bei at / near / next to Er wohnt bei seinem Vater He lives at his father's
dank thanks to / due to / owing to Dank meinem Bruder kann ich mir das Buch leisten Thanks to my brother I can afford the book
entgegen contrary to / against Entgegen aller Erwartungen habe ich gewonnen Contrary to all expectations I won
entsprechend according to / corresponding to Den Erwartungen entsprechend According to expectations
gegenüber opposite (to)/ across from / Gegenüber dem Krankenhaus finden Sie viele Geschäfte You will find lots of shops opposite the hospital
gemäß according to / under the terms of Gemäß dem Gesetz ist er schuldig According to the law he is guilty
mit with / by Ich gehe morgen mit meiner Familie in die Stadt I am going into town tomorrow with my family
nach to / after Nach dem ersten Weltkrieg After the first world war
samt including / together with Samt seinem Sohn geht er zum Zoo He is going to the zoo together with his son
seit since / for Seit einem Jahr lerne ich Deutsch I have been learning German for a year
von by / from / of Wir haben es von den Nachbarn gehört We heard it from the neighbours
zu at / to Morgen fahren wir zu meiner Schwester We are driving to my sister tomorrow
zufolge* according to Einem Gerucht zufolge will er in Rente gehen Rumour has it he wants to retire


*The preposition 'zufolge' is sometimes, although less often, also found in the genitive case where it is positioned before the noun. Used most often in Swiss German and legal documents.


3. German prepositions which take both the accusative and dative cases

Before we take a look at these prepositions, you need to know how to determine if the preposition takes the accusative or dative case.

It can be determined, quite simply, by asking either wo? (where?) or wohin? (where to?).

When describing a movement to a certain place (where to?), the preposition will always occur in the accusative case and, therefore, decline the noun in the accusative case.

Examples:

1. Ich fahre in die Stadt (I am driving into town). Where am I driving to? To town. 'In' is, therefore, found here in the accusative case.

However, when there is no movement involved and a fixed place is being talked about (where?), then the dative case is used.

2. Ich wohne in der Stadt (I live in the town). Where do I live? In the town. 'In' is, therefore, here in the dative case.

(By the way, the dative case, is also always used after the question, woher? - where from?)

Let's now take a look at the following table which details prepositions using both the accusative and dative case.


Preposition In English Accusative Example In English Dative Example In English
an to / in / at Die Bewerbung soll an die Personalabteilung geschickt werden The application should be sent to the personnel department Ich bin an der Ampel I am at the traffic lights
auf upon / on / at / to Ich stelle die Teller auf den Tisch I am putting the plates on the table Wir sitzen auf einer Bank We are sitting on a bench
hinter behind Ich gehe hinter den Vorhang I am going behind the curtain Hinter dem Vorhang ist der Staubsauger The vacuum cleaner is behind the curtain
in into / in /at Morgen fahren wir in die Stadt We are driving into town tomorrow Wir kaufen in der Stadt ein We are shopping in town
neben next to / near / beside / adjacent to Kannst Du bitte den Tisch neben die Wand stellen? Can you please put the table next to the wall? Der Tisch steht schon neben der Wand The table is already next to the wall
über over / across / above / about Wir fahren über einen Hügel We are driving over a hill Über dem Regenbogen Over the rainbow
unter under / among / beneath Ich fahre unter die Brücke I am driving under the bridge Der Hund liegt unter dem Tisch The dog is laying underneath the table
vor in front of / before Stellst du die Eier bitte vor die Tür? Can you please put the eggs in front of the door? Wir warten vor dem Parkhaus We are waiting in front of the car park
zwischen between / in between Ich habe den Ball zwischen seine Beine geworfen! I threw the ball between his legs! Ich stehe zwischen den zwei Autos I am standing between the two cars


Tip: Prepositions are much more common in the accusative and dative case than in the genitive case - so remember this next time when you have forgotten which case a preposition takes. Genitive Case prepositions coming soon...


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