The Four German Cases
Präpositionen mit Akkusativ
Certain German prepositions are governed by the accusative case. That is, they take an object in the accusative case. The accusative prepositions tend to be used a lot and it is important to learn them early in your study of German.
In English, prepositions take the objective case (object of the preposition) and all prepositions take the same case. In German, prepositions come in several "flavors," only one of which is accusative.
There are two kinds of accusative prepositions: (1) those that are always accusative and never anything else, and (2) certain "two-way" prepositions that can be either accusative or dative depending on how they are used. See the chart below for a complete list of each type.
In the German-English examples below, the accusative preposition is red. The object of the preposition is blue:
Ohne Geld geht's nicht.Notice in the second example above that the object (Fluss) comes before the preposition (entlang). Some German prepositions use this reverse word order, but the object must still be in the correct case.
Without money it won't work.
Sie geht den Fluss entlang.
She walking along the river.
Er arbeitet für eine große Firma.
He works for a big company.
Wir fahren durch die Stadt.
We're driving through the city.
Schreibst du einen Brief an deinen Vater?
Are you writing a letter to your father?
Here is a list of the accusative-only prepositions. The most common, important ones are in red. You should memorize them with their meanings.
|bis*||until, to, by|
|NOTE: The accusative preposition entlang, unlike the others, usually goes after its object, as in the example above.|
|um||around, for; at (time)|
|*NOTE: The German preposition bis is technically an accusative preposition, but it is almost always used with a second preposition (bis zu, bis auf, etc.) in a different case, or without an article (bis April, bis Montag, bis Bonn).|
For more on the accusative-only prepositions, with examples, see German for Beginners Lektion 14B - The Acccusative Prepositions.
|NOTE: The meaning of a two-way preposition often depends on whether it is used with the accusative or dative case. See below for the grammar rules.|
|an||at, on, to|
|auf||at, to, on, upon|
|neben||beside, near, next to|
|über||about, above, across, over|
|vor||in front of, before;
The basic rule for determining whether a two-way preposition should have an object in the accusative or dative case is motion versus location. If there is motion towards something or to a specific location (wohin?, where to?), then usually that is accusative. If there is no motion at all or random motion going nowhere in particular (wo?, where (at)?), then that is usually dative. This rule applies only to the so-called "two-way" or "dual" prepositions in German. (For example, a dative-only preposition like nach is always dative, whether there is motion or not.) Here are two sets of examples:
Wir gehen ins Kino. (in das, accus.)A single German two-way prepositionsuch as in or aufmay have more than one English translation, as you can see above. In addition, you'll find many of these prepositions have yet another meaning in common everyday idioms and expressions: auf dem Lande (in the country), um drei Uhr (at three o'clock), unter uns (among us), am Mittwoch (on Wednesday), vor einer Woche (a week ago), etc. Such expressions can be learned as vocabulary without worrying about the grammar involved.
We're going to the movies/cinema. (motion towards)
Wir sind im Kino. (in dem, dat.)
We're at the movies/cinema. (location)
Legen Sie das Buch auf den Tisch. (accusative)
Put/Lay the book on the table. (motion towards)
Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch. (dative)
The book's lying on the table. (location)
For more on the accusative/dative (two-way) prepositions, see the article The Two-Way Prepositions in German, which includes a self-scoring quiz on the use of the two-way prepositions. Be sure to also look at Lektion 14B of German for Beginners for more on the accusative-only prepositions.
NEXT > The Dative Case
German grammar terms explained in plain English.
An article on the dangers that German prepositions can present. From your Guide.
German for Beginners Course - The Acccusative Prepositions
Lesson 14B in our free online course for German.
German Word Order
A helpful guide to German syntax.
All of the grammar resources on this site.
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