German Accusative and Dative Prepositions
We use prepositions in a sentence the relationship between nouns or pronouns. This relationship is often based on time or place. A single preposition can be both a preposition of place or a preposition of time, depending on what context it is used in. Dealing with nouns or pronouns in German means that we will automatically have to pay attention to the grammatical cases. That’s why we need to look at German Accusative and Dative Prepositions closely.
Some prepositions always use the accusative case, some use the dative case exclusively, and some can use either, depending on context and question asked.
1. Accusative Prepositions (Akkusativpräpositionen).
The following five commonly-used prepositions are always found in the accusative case:
Wir gehen durch den Park. We walk through the park.
Wir liefen um die Stadt. We ran around the city.
2. Dative Prepositions (Dativpräpositionen)
There are nine prepositions that always take the dative case, but for memorizing them, we will use only the most common eight (see chart below; gegenüber is not listed). A mnemonic device for them is singing them in order to the tune of “The Blue Danube Waltz” by Johann Strauss. Below the table, there are several examples of the prepositions and all of their meanings (in order as they appear in the table).
Ihr kommt aus dem Büro. You are coming from (our of) the office.
Sie ist mit ihrem Freund ausgegangen. She went out with her (boy)friend.
3. Two-Way Prepositions
There are a handful of prepositions that can take either the accusative or dative case. These are called two-way prepositions (Wechselpräpositionen). Two-way prepositions are often used in conjunction with a handful of verbs of location. Some of them appear identical, but their translation can vary slightly, changing the case.
The German two-way prepositions are:
auf (on top of)
neben (next to)
vor (in front of)
zwischen (in between)
The verbs stellen (to place upright), setzen (to set onself), legen (to lay down), stecken (to place/stick inside) and hängen (to hang something) are most commonly used with the accusative case.
The verbs stehen (to be/stand upright), sitzen (to sit), liegen (to lie), stecken (to be inside), hängen (to be hanging something) are most commonly used with the dative case.
To determine which verb of placement is needed, consider the two questions “Wo? and “Wohin?”. Wo? (where, at what place/location) requires the dative case, whereas wohin (where to) uses the accusative case.
Wo ist die Flasche? Die Flasche ist in der Küche. (Dative case)
Where is the bottle? The bottle is in the kitchen.
Wohin stellst du sie Flasche? Ich stelle die Flasche in die Küche. (Accusative case)
Where are you putting the bottle? I’m putting the bottle in(to) the kitchen.
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