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Prepositions are rather trickier in German than they are in English. They are one of the reasons that native English speakers beginning to learn German learn the swear words first.


The trick to using a prepostion correctly in German is to remember that your choice of preposition determines the case of the noun phrase that follows it.  The prepositions that determine any one case are usually taught as a group.




Genitive Prepositions

When a prepositional phrase begins with one of these prepositions, the noun must be in the genitive case; that is, the noun is treated the same as if it were being referred to as the possessor of something. A good rule of thumb is to remember that the English form of any genitive preposition has an alternate form ending in "of".



statt (anstatt)  -- instead of
trotz - despite (in spite of)
während - during (at the time of)
innerhalb - inside (of)
außerhalb - outside (of)
oberhalb - above
unterhalb - below, underneath (of)
diesseits - this side of
jenseits - that side of (beyond)
beiderseits - both sides of
um xxxes willen - for xxx's sake, for the sake of



Accusative Prepositions

When a prepositional phrase begins with one of these propositions, the noun must be in the accusative case; that is, the noun is treated the same as if it were the direct object of a sentence.



bis - until
durch - through
für - for
gegen - against (as in leaning against)
ohne - without
um - around
wider - against (as in I must speak out against this injustice)



Dative Prepositions

When a prepositional phrase begins with one of these propositions, the noun must be in the dative case; that is, the noun is treated the same as if it were the indirect object of a sentence.


aus - out
außer - beside
bei - by
gemäß (gemaess) - according to
mit - with
nach - after
seit - until
von - from
zu - to



Accusative or dative prepositions

When a prepositional phrase begins with one of these prepositions, the noun might be in the dative case, or it might be in the accusative case... It all depends on how the phrase is being used.

A good rule of thumb to use is that using such a preposition to imply motion results in the noun being accusative; implying position results in the noun being dative.



For example:

He walked into the room -> Er tritt in das Zimmer (accusative)

He stood in the room -> Er stand in dem Zimmer  (dative)


an - at, to
auf - on
entlang - along
in - in, into
hinter - behind
neben - next to
ober - over
unter - under
vor - in front of (e.g. before the group)
zwischen - between

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