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The Four German Cases

The Dative Case with Prepositions

Dative Prepositions + Dual Prepositions (Acc/Dat)

Summary | Nominative | Accusative | Dative | Genitive
Werfall | Wenfall | Wemfall | Wesfall
Nominativ | Akkusativ | Dativ | Genitiv

Also see: The Dative Case (Part 1)

Präpositionen mit Dativ

Certain German prepositions are governed by the dative case. That is, they take an object in the dative case. Many dative prepositions tend to be very common vocabulary in German: nach (after, to), von (by, of) and mit (with).

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 dative.

There are two kinds of dative prepositions: (1) those that are always dative and never anything else, and (2) certain "two-way" or "dual" prepositions that can be either dative or accusative—depending on how they are used. See the chart below for a complete list of each type.

In the German-English examples below, the dative preposition is red. The object of the preposition is blue:

Mit der Bahn fahren wir.
We're going by train.
Meiner Meinung nach ist es zu teuer.
In my opinion it's too expensive.
Das Hotel ist dem Bahnhof gegenüber.
The hotel is across from the train station.
Er arbeitet bei einer großen Firma.
He works at a big company.
Wir verbringen eine Woche am See.
We're spending a week at the lake.

Notice in the second and third examples above that the object comes before the preposition. (With gegenüber this is optional.) Some German prepositions use this reverse word order, but the object must still be in the correct case.

Here is a list of the dative-only prepositions. You should memorize them with their meanings.

Dative Prepositions
Deutsch Englisch
aus from, out of
außer except for, besides
bei at, near
gegenüber across from, opposite
  Gegenüber can go before or after its object.
mit with, by
nach after, to
seit since (time), for
von by, from
zu at, to
NOTE: The genitive prepositions statt (instead of), trotz (in spite of), während (during) and wegen (because of) are often used with the dative in spoken German, particularly in certain regions. If you want to "blend in" and not sound too stuffy, you can use them in the dative also.

Two-Way Prepositions
Dative/Accusative
NOTE: The meaning of a two-way preposition also depends on whether it is in the accusative or dative. See below for the grammar rules.
Deutsch Englisch
an at, on, to
auf at, to, on, upon
hinter behind
in in, into
neben beside, near, next to
über about, above, across, over
unter under, among
vor in front of, before;
ago (time)
zwischen between

The basic rule for determining whether a two-way preposition should have an object in the accusative or dative case is motion (wohin?, where to?) versus location (wo?, where?, at rest). If there is motion towards something or a specific location, then usually that is accusative. If there is no motion at all or random motion going nowhere in particular, then that is usually dative. Remember, this applies only to the two-way prepositions! Here are two sets of examples:

Wir gehen ins Kino. (in das, accus.)
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)

A single German two-way preposition – such as in or auf – may 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.

Look for future lessons and references on the two-way prepositions. Be sure to look at Lektion 14B of German for Beginners for more on the accusative prepositions.

NEXT > Genitive Case

MORE > Summary | Nominative | Accusative | Dative | Genitive


Related Pages

Grammar Glossary
German grammar terms explained in plain English.

Prepositional Pitfalls
An article on the dangers that German prepositions can present. From your Guide.

German Word Order
A helpful guide to German syntax.

German Grammar
All of the grammar resources on this site.


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