German Accusative and Dative Prepositions

Overview

How do we know when to apply the Accusative or the Dative case with these prepositions? When we talk about movement, from point A to B, we apply the Accusative case. Here’s an easy way to remember: ACtive -> ACcusative
Always ask the question, “Wohin” (where to?), when considering the accusative with these prepositions.
Things change a bit as we use the Dative case with the same prepositions. The difference here is that we’re talking about a static situation. The question to ask here is “Wo?” (where?).
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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:

akkusativprpositionen 1 1024x346 jpg

Examples:
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).

dativprpositionen jpg

Examples:
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:

an (on)
auf (on top of)
hinter (behind)
in (in)
neben (next to)
über (over/above)
unter (under)
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.

Example:
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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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

Writing:
I can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. I can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions.
Spoken Production:
I can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, my dreams, hopes and ambitions. I can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. I can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe my reactions.
Spoken Interaction:
I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events).
Reading:
I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.
Listening:
I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programs on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.