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German Simple Prepositions: A Thorough Guide with Examples

Prepositions play a vital role in the German language. Learning the most common simple prepositions along with their associated cases is essential for grammatical accuracy.

This comprehensive guide covers the fundamentals of German prepositions including:

  • The role of prepositions
  • Prepositions with the accusative case
  • Prepositions with the dative case
  • Two-way prepositions
  • Prepositional phrases
  • Preposition combinations
  • Practical examples

Read on for an in-depth look at how to properly use German simple prepositions in sentences.

The Role of Prepositions

Prepositions are small words that show the relationship between nouns and other parts of the sentence. For example:

Ich lege das Buch auf den Tisch.

"auf" shows the relationship between "Buch" and "Tisch."

Some common German prepositions include:

in, an, auf, hinter, neben, mit, nach, zwischen, durch, für, gegen, um, von, zu, bei, seit, ab, bis

Prepositions also dictate which case the noun that follows takes. Learning these patterns is crucial.

Prepositions with the Accusative Case

Some common prepositions ALWAYS take the accusative case. These include prepositions that relate to motion and direction, such as:







Ich gehe durch den Park. (I go through the park).

Dieser Brief ist für meinen Freund. (This letter is for my friend).

Er schwimmt gegen die Strömung. (He swims against the current).

Sie arbeitet ohne Pause. (She works without stopping).

Der Hund läuft um das Haus. (The dog runs around the house).

The highlighted nouns are in the accusative case after accusative prepositions.

Prepositions with the Dative Case

Some prepositions ALWAYS take the dative case. Many involve location and time, like:









For example:

Ich komme aus Berlin. (I come from Berlin).

Außer mir geht niemand zur Party. (No one except me is going to the party).

Bei schönem Wetter gehen wir spazieren. (When the weather is nice, we go for a walk).

The nouns following dative prepositions appropriately take the dative ending.

Two-Way Prepositions

Some prepositions can take EITHER the accusative or dative case. The meaning changes slightly depending on the case. These two-way prepositions include:










For example:

Accusative: Ich hänge das Bild an die Wand. (I hang the picture on the wall).

Dative: Sie lehnt an der Wand. (She leans against the wall).

Pay attention to the case required by the context.

Prepositional Phrases

A preposition together with its object forms a prepositional phrase. For example:

Ich lege das Buch auf den Tisch.

"auf den Tisch" is the prepositional phrase.

It describes where the book is being placed.

Highlighting prepositional phrases can help you determine which case is needed based on the preposition.

Common Preposition Combinations

Prepositions are often combined together, or with adverbs. Some examples:

  • anstatt (instead of)
  • außerhalb (outside of)
  • während (during)
  • gegenüber (opposite, facing)
  • zufolge (according to)

For example:

Anstatt des Kuchens bestelle ich Pizza.

Während des Films schlafe ich ein.

Learn these combinations as distinct vocabulary words.

Practical Preposition Examples

Here are some full sentence examples to illustrate proper preposition usage:

Accusative preposition:

Ich kaufe ein Geschenk für meine Freundin. (I buy a gift for my girlfriend).

Dative preposition:

Seit einer Stunde warte ich auf dich! (I've been waiting for you for an hour!)

Two-way preposition (dative):

Der Schüler sitzt neben dem Lehrer. (The student sits next to the teacher).

Two-way preposition (accusative):

Stell den Stuhl neben den Tisch. (Put the chair next to the table).

Preposition combination:

Anstatt den Bus zu nehmen, gehe ich zu Fuß. (Instead of taking the bus, I walk).

Proper understanding and usage of prepositions will hugely benefit your German grammar and fluency. With time and practice, preposition case patterns will become second nature. This knowledge will allow you to confidently connect words and construct sentences with accuracy.