Learn German Prepositions: 28 Dative, Accusative, Genitive and Two-way Prepositions in German

In simple grammatical terms, German prepositions are words that show the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another word in the sentence. Prepositions determine which case the noun or pronoun takes (nominative, accusative, dative or genitive).

German prepositions are hard to learn if you’re an English native speaker, or if you learned English as a second language. But don’t worry! Learn German with Anja made an ultimate guide to prepositions in German:

Using the correct preposition with the proper case is essential for fluent German speaking and writing.

1. German Prepositions in Accusative Case

German prepositions in the accusative case indicate movement or direction towards something. They are followed by a noun or pronoun in the accusative case, and the definite article changes to the accusative form.

This means that in accusative, the feminine (die/eine) and neuter (das/ein) articles don’t change, while the masculine one changes from der to den, and ein to einen.

GermanEnglish
durchthrough
fürfor
gegenagainst
ohnewithout
umaround, at (time)

Examples for German prepositions in accusative case:

  1. Wir gehen durch den Park. (We’re walking through the park.)
  2. Er kämpft für die Freiheit. (He’s fighting for freedom.)
  3. Sie ist gegen den Krieg. (She is against the war.)
  4. Können wir ohne ihn gehen? (Can we go without him?)
  5. Um 8 Uhr beginnt der Film. (The movie starts at 8 o’clock.)

Using accusative prepositions shows that the noun is the direct object, affected by the action of the verb. The accusative case tells us the noun is the target or destination.

german prepositions showed in empty cinema room

2. German Prepositions in Dative Case

Prepositions that take the dative case indicate location or a static position. The noun or pronoun following is in the dative case, with the definite article changing accordingly.

In this case, you have to remember that both the masculine (der/ein → dem/einem) and the neuter (das/ein → dem/einem) article changes to look alike in dative; while the feminine changes from die/eine → der/einer.

GermanEnglish
ausfrom, out of
außerexcept for
beiat, near
mitwith
nachafter, to
seitsince, for (time)
vonfrom, of
zuto

Sentences in dative case with prepositions:

  1. Die Katze sitzt auf dem Sofa. (The cat is sitting on the sofa.)
  2. Alle außer ihm waren da. (Everyone except him was there.)
  3. Ich wohne bei meinen Eltern. (I live with my parents.)
  4. Gehst du mit mir spazieren? (Are you going for a walk with me?)
  5. Ich freue mich auf die Ferien. (I’m looking forward to the vacation.)
  6. Wir sind seit gestern hier. (We’ve been here since yesterday.)

The dative case shows the noun’s position relative to the action of the verb. It indicates the indirect object receiving the verb’s action.

3. German Prepositions in Genitive Case

Genitive prepositions are less common – you could even say a dying breed in German grammar – but important to know. They indicate possession or associations and are followed by the genitive case.

In genitive, all of the German articles change, like this:

  • masculine: der/ein → des/eines
  • feminine: die/eine → der/einer
  • neuter: der/ein → des/eines
GermanEnglish
anstatt (statt)instead of
außerhalboutside of
innerhalbinside of
trotzdespite
währendduring
wegenbecause of

Usually in written form:

  1. Sie ging anstatt ihres Mannes zur Party. (She went to the party instead of her husband.)
  2. Wir haben den ganzen Tag außerhalb der Stadt gewandert. (We hiked all day outside of the city.)
  3. Innerhalb eines Jahres hat sie viel gelernt. (Within one year, she learned a lot.)
  4. Trotz des Regens sind wir gegangen. (Despite the rain, we went.)
  5. Während der Schulzeit arbeite ich nicht. (I don’t work during school time.)
  6. Ich konnte wegen der Verspätung nicht kommen. (I couldn’t come because of the delay.)

German genitive prepositions indicate relationships like time, cause, possession and orientation.

german prepositions in hiking trail

4. Learn German Two-Way Prepositions (Wechselpräpositionen)

Two-way or “changeable” prepositions can take either the accusative or dative case. The case used depends on whether the context implies movement/direction (accusative) or location/position (dative).

GermanEnglish
anon, at
aufon, upon
hinterbehind
inin, into
nebenbeside, next to
überover, above, about
unterunder, beneath, among
vorin front of, before
zwischenbetween

Movement examples:

  1. Er hängt das Bild an die Wand. (He’s hanging the picture on the wall.)
  2. Legen Sie bitte das Buch auf den Tisch. (Please put the book on the table.)
  3. Der Hund krabbelt unter das Bett. (The dog is crawling under the bed.)

Location examples:

  1. Das Bild hängt an der Wand. (The picture is hanging on the wall.)
  2. Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch. (The book is lying on the table.)
  3. Die Katze sitzt unter dem Tisch. (The cat is sitting under the table.)

To summarize, accusative case is used with these prepositions for movement or direction, while dative case is for stating location or position.

German prepositions may seem tricky, but thinking about the meaning and relationship being described can help determine the proper case. Does the preposition show movement towards something (accusative) or location/position (dative)? Is it describing possession, time or associations (genitive)?

5. Practice German prepositions – Fill in the blanks!

Fill in the blanks in these example sentences with the correct form of German prepositions!

This is just part of the exercise we have for this topic – click to button below and gain access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library!

6. Learn German prepositions with Conversation Based Chunking

With the most common German prepositions categorized by case, you can more easily identify which preposition fits your intended meaning. Study this list of 28 prepositions and memorize the examples. The more you use them, the more natural proper preposition use will become. And how can you be as natural as you can in German?

Well, Conversation Based Chunking is one of the most effective methods for this! We use the natural building blocks of the language, called chunks, to teach you the language in its live appearances. Immerse yourself in any language by listening to radios, podcasts, watching YouTube channels to learn German or watch the best German TV shows and in no time, you won’t even realize that you’re using German prepositions: because with Conversation Based Chunking, they became natural parts of the speaking process.

Sign up now and get your German Conversation Based Chunking Guide with a study program, essential German chunking lists and my favorite resources to learn German.

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