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German Verbs with Prepositions

Verben mit Präpositionen

This German verb guide is part of our free German for Beginners course. Also see our German Verbs section for more about German verbs.

RELATED > Two-Way Prepositions | Prepositional Pitfalls

Introduction: Verbs and Prepositions
There are many German verbs and idiomatic verb phrases that use prepositions. English also uses verbs with prepositions (“to believe in” or “talk about”), but German may use a different preposition for the same expression (glauben an for believe in) and German can often have two possible cases for a preposition in a verbal idiom. Determining which case to use can sometimes be confusing for English-speakers, but this guide can help reduce such confusion.

A preposition in a German verb phrase takes an object in the same case that the preposition normally requires (accusative or dative). For a preposition such as mit, which is always dative, the object of the preposition in the verbal phrase would also use the dative: “Hör doch mit dem Lärm auf!” (“Cut out the noise!” - Verb phrase: aufhören mit).

For many prepositions, as in the mit example above, you only have to know what kind of preposition you have — i.e., für, always accusative, or von, always dative. Doubt concerning the correct case only arises with the so-called two-way prepositions, also called the “doubtful” prepositions. (In the chart below, two-way prepositions are indicated with an asterisk [*].) The doubt comes about because a two-way preposition can take either an accusative or a dative object. With verbs, the normal rules for determining the case of a dual preposition (wo/wohin) don't always apply. For many verb + preposition expressions, you simply have to learn which case the verb uses, much as you have to learn the gender of a German noun. That's just one good reason why you should study the prepositional verb charts that follow.

Don't confuse prepositions used with verbs
with separable/inseparable verb prefixes
that may also be prepositions.

There are, however, some helpful rules of thumb for the two-way prepositions with verbs. With the exception of an, two-way prepositions with verbs usually take the accusative case. For instance, in verbal phrases, the two-way preposition über usually means “about” and is accusative. In contrast, most an verb phrases, such as arbeiten an (to work on), are dative. Unlike the other two-way prepositions, very few verb expressions with an are accusative. These include: denken an (think of), glauben an (believe in), s. halten an (hold to), and s. erinnern an (remember). In stock verb phrases, über is always accusative, vor is always dative (but not in other situations). Also see additional comments for particular verbs/prepositions in the charts below.

The first verb + preposition chart below lists the prepositions alphabetically, with example sentences. The chart in Part 2 lists the verbs alphabetically.

ABBREVIATIONS USED: A (accusative), D (dative), etw (etwas), jdn (jemanden, someone), s. (sich, reflexive verb), s.o. (someone), s.t. (something)

Verbs with Prepositions > Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | QUIZ

Prepositions Used with Verbs
Präpositionen mit Verben
Prep. Verb Phrase Example
an* an etw arbeiten D Er arbeitet an einem Roman.
He's working on a novel.
an* an etw/jdn denken A Ich denke oft an ihn.
I think of him often.
auf* auf etw achten A Sie müssen auf den Preis achten.
You have to pay attention to the price.
auf* auf etw bestehen D Er hat auf seinen Rechten bestanden.
He insisted on his rights.
aus aus etw bestehen D Sein Haus besteht aus Stein.
His house is made of stone.
für für etw sorgen A Die Polizei sorgt für Recht und Ordnung.
The police strive for law and order.
in* s. in jdn verlieben A Er hat sich in sie verliebt.
He fell in love with her.
in* s. in etw/jdm täuschen D Ich habe mich in ihm getäuscht.
He disappointed me.
Also see > Verb List
mit mit etw rechnen D Wir haben mit seiner Dummheit nicht gerechnet.
We didn't account for his stupidity.
nach nach etw riechen D Es riecht nach Benzin.
It smells like/of gasoline.
über* über etw/jdn urteilen A Ich kann nicht über sein Talent urteilen.
I can't judge his talent.
über* über etw verfügen A Verfügst du über einen Rechner?
Do you have access to a computer?
  NOTE: über is always ACCUSATIVE in verbal idioms.
um s. um etw bewerben A Bewirbst du dich um den Posten?
Are you applying for the position?
von von etw/jdm distanzieren D Sie haben sich von ihm distanziert.
They distanced themselves from him.
vor* jdn vor etw retten D Sie hat ihn vor dem Wasser gerettet.
She saved him from the water.
  NOTE: vor is always DATIVE in verbal idioms.
zu zu etw/jdm stehen D Stehst du zu ihm?
Are you sticking by/with him?
  * = two-way (accusative/dative) prepositions
  NOTE: The two-way prepositions hinter and unter are rarely used in verbal idioms.
  Also see > Verb List

Comments: Verbs and Prepositions
As you can see by the examples above, the German preposition in verbal idioms may or may not resemble the English preposition. In fact, in some German verbal phrases with a preposition there is no preposition at all in the English equivalent: aufhören mit (to stop doing something), s. erinnern an (to remember).

Some verbs can be used with more than one preposition, which may or may not change its meaning. The verb bestehen, for instance, used with auf means “to insist on,” while the same verb used with aus means “to consist of/be made of.” The verb halten can be used with a variety of prepositions, each of which gives the verb a different meaning: halten für, halten an, halten von, halten zu are all possible variations. The verb sich freuen auf means “to look forward to,” while sich freuen über means “to be glad about.” (Also see Confusing Words in German.)

Verbs and Prepositions: DA- and WO-Compounds
You will often see verb + preposition idioms in their da- or wo-compound forms. “Es kommt darauf an.” (“It depends.”) uses the preposition in its compound form. In questions, a wo-compound is used. More examples:

  • Ich halte nicht viel davon. (I don't think much of it.)
  • Wovon hält er nicht viel? (What doesn't he think much of?)
  • Er pfeift darauf. (He has contempt for it.)
  • Worauf pfeift er? (What does he have contempt for?)
  • Bewirbst du dich darum? (Are you applying for it?)
  • Worum bewirbst du dich? (What are you applying for?)

In the next chart, we list many common verb + preposition expressions alphabetically by verb.

NEXT > Verb List (A-F)
MORE > Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | QUIZ


Related Pages

German Verbs
An index of all of our German verb pages.

Dative Verbs
Some German verbs must take a dative rather than an accusative object.

German Prepositions
A guide to the German prepositions.

German Accusative Prepositions
All about the German prepositions that take the accusative case.

German Dative Prepositions
All about the German prepositions that take the dative case, plus two-way prepositions.

English-German Glossaries
All of the annotated glossaries on this site - from aerospace to travel.

German Grammar
All of the grammar resources on this site.


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