Have you tried communicating in English without prepositions? Next to impossible, isn’t it? German prepositions too play a vital role in building German sentences. A preposition is a word that connects a noun or pronoun to the sentence.
Not knowing which preposition to use can be quite frustrating. Learning German prepositions was a real struggle for us too, when we were beginners. You are at the right place if you are looking for an easier way to remember these prepositions!
Introduction to German Prepositions
You might think that if you know which English preposition to use in a sentence, then you can simply translate it in German. Sadly, it’s not that easy. Let’s consider a sentence, both in English and German.
We should speak in German. Here, we have used the preposition ‘in’. The same sentence in German language will be- Wir sollen auf Deutsch sprechen. Here, we have used ‘auf’. The preposition ‘auf’ translates to ‘on’, ‘in’ or ‘at’ depending on the context.
As you can see, it is not possible to translate prepositions exactly every time. German prepositions are called as Präpositionen. They are more difficult because of the German case system. The 4 cases in German language are Nominative, Accusative, Dative and Genitive.
A preposition is usually followed by either a noun or pronoun. German prepositions affect the case of the following noun or pronoun. This means, they help to determine the case of the object. You will know which case the object takes, just by looking at the preposition.
This lesson covers 3 types of prepositions- Accusative, Dative and Two-Way Prepositions.
German Prepositions in the Accusative
The nouns and pronouns following these prepositions will always be in the accusative case. Here’s a list of accusative prepositions for you to memorize:-
|bis||up to, until, by, as far as|
|durch||through, by means of|
|um||at (time), around, about|
- Das Brot ist für mich. (The bread is for me.)
- Heute spielt Indien gegen Australien. (India is playing against Australia today.)
- Ich gehe durch den Wald. (I am walking through the forest.)
- Wir rannten den Weg entlang. (We ran along the way.) This is a bit different case. The object of the sentence precedes the preposition “entlang“. However, if the preposition is used before the noun or pronoun (very rare), it becomes dative.
To avoid confusion, remember it this way- Entlang always follows the object. So, the object is in accusative case.
German Prepositions in the Dative
The nouns and pronouns following these prepositions will always be in the dative case. Here’s a list of dative prepositions for you to memorize:-
|aus||from, out of|
|gegenüber||opposite, across from|
|nach||after, to, according to|
|seit||since, for (time)|
- Ich arbeite seit drei Jahren. (I have been working for three years.)
- Nach der Schule spielen wir Tennis. (After school we play tennis.)
- Ich reise mit meinem Vater. (I am traveling with my father.)
- Die Universität ist der Kirche gegenüber. / Die Universität ist gegenüber der Kirche. (The university is opposite to the church.) The preposition “gegenüber” either precedes or follows the noun.
- Ich sitze dir gegenüber. (I am sitting opposite to you.) However, if a pronoun is used in a sentence, then the preposition always goes after the pronoun.
Two-way German Prepositions (Wechselpräpositionen)
The nouns and pronouns following these prepositions will either be in the accusative case or the dative case. How will you know which case to use? The answer is simple.
When any motion is involved, the preposition is in the accusative. In this case, we ask the question “wohin?” (where to?). When no motion is involved, the preposition is in the dative. In this case, we ask the question “wo?” (where?).
Here’s a list of two-way prepositions for you to memorize:-
|neben||next to, beside|
|über||above, over, about (topic)|
|vor||in front of, before|
- Ich lege das Buch auf den Schrank. (I put the book on the cupboard.) Here, a movement is involved. The book was not on the cupboard before, I am putting it there. Hence, ‘auf’ is accusative.
- Das Buch liegt auf dem Schrank. (The book is on the cupboard.) This sentence states the position of the book. It was already on the cupboard, there is no movement. Hence, ‘auf’ is dative.
Native German speakers normally combine the preposition and the following article together to form one word. It’s like English “can’t” and “don’t”. We rarely say “cannot” and “do not”.
Similarly, in German, we can combine in and das to form ins. Here’s a list of commonly used contractions:-
- an + dem = am
- an + das = ans
- auf + das = aufs
- in + dem = im
- in + das = ins
- bei + dem = beim
- von + dem = vom
- zu + dem = zum
- zu + der = zur
- für + das = fürs
Verbs with Prepositions
There are a lot of verbs in German that always take specific prepositions. It is really important to learn these verb-preposition combinations. Here’s a list of 15 common verbs for you:-
|achten auf + Akk.||to pay attention to / watch out for|
|bitten um + Akk.||to ask / request for|
|denken an + Akk.||to think of / about|
|einladen zu + Dat.||to invite to|
|sich erinnern an + Akk.||to remember|
|fragen nach + Dat.||to inquire / ask for|
|sich freuen auf + Akk.||to look forward to|
|sich freuen über + Akk.||to be glad about|
|gehören zu + Dat.||to belong to|
|helfen bei + Dat.||to help / assist with|
|sich kümmern um + Akk.||to look after / take care of|
|schreiben an + Akk.||to write to|
|teilnehmen an + Dat.||to participate in|
|sich treffen mit + Dat.||to meet / catch up with|
|warten auf + Akk.||to wait for|
Click here if you would like to learn more verb-preposition combinations.
Learn the verbs with their prepositions and cases. This is the easiest way to avoid confusion.
German Grammar Quiz
Do you want to practice what you learned in this lesson? Take this quiz to test your knowledge of German Prepositions.
If you enjoyed learning this lesson, also check out the topic Adjective Endings in German on your favorite blog “All About Deutsch”.
Want to learn more about German prepositions? Have a look at this article on Study.com.
PS – On this blog, you will find grammar lessons just like this one, vocabulary lists divided subject-wise as well as articles related to countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland and a lot more. Keep scrolling, keep learning!