Lesson 6 - Prepositions I

Prepositions are frequently used words, such as 'from', 'on', 'with', that are followed by a noun or a pronoun to define how people and things relate to each other in a sentence.

The functions of prepositions in English and German are very similar. However, German prepositions are a bit more complicated than the English ones, due to the fact that they always require a certain case following them. Thus, whenever you use a preposition, you must be aware of the case that preposition governs and the changes this may imply.

German prepositions could be divided into groups, according to the case they require.

  • Prepositions which take the accusative case
  • Prepositions which take the dative case
  • Prepositions which take the genitive case
  • Prepositions which take either the accusative or the dative case

This lesson will discuss the first three groups.

Prepositions + Accuasative Case

The following German prepositions are always followed by the accusative case:

Prepositions + Accusative Case
bis until
durch through
für for
gegen against
ohne without
um around, at
Examples of Prepositoin + Accusative Case
Ich bleibe bis Morgen I'm staying until tomorrow
Sie guckt durch das Loch She's looking through the hole
Danke für das Geschenk Thank you for the gift
Gegen wem haben sie gekämpft? Against whom did they fight?
Wir sind gegen vier angekommen We arrived around four o'clock
Ich reise nie ohne meinen Wecker I never travel without my alarm clock
Der Bahnhof ist um die Ecke The station is around the corner
Es fängt um neun Uhr an It starts at nine o'clock

Note that 'gegen' means 'around' when used to refer to time, while 'um' means 'around' when used for directions.

Short Form

In some instances, the preposition and the definite article 'das' are joined together.

  • durch das = durchs
  • für das = fürs
  • um das = ums

Prepositions + Dative Case

The following German prepositions are always followed by the dative case:

Prepositions + Dative Case
aus from, out of
außer apart from
bei at, near
gegenüber opposite
mit with
nach after, to
seit since, for
von from
zu to
Examples of Prepositoin + Dative Case
Er kommt aus Berlin He comes from Berlin
Sie trinkt aus der Flasche She is drinking out of the bottle
Niemand kennt es außer meinem Bruder Nobody knows it except my brother
Mein Onkel wird bei uns wohnen My uncle is going to live at our house
Er ist noch beim Friseur He is still at the hairdresser's
Er wohnt uns gegenüber He lives opposite to us
Ich spiele Schach mit ihm I play chess with him
Nach dem Konzert gingen sie nach Hause After the concert they went home
Seit seiner Kindheit wohnt sie in Frankfurt Since her childhood she has been living in Frankfurt
Ich habe die Krankheit seit einem Jahr I have had this illness for one year
Das Geschenk ist von meiner Schwester The gift is from my sister
Ich muss zu Hause bleiben I must stay at home

Take note that 'gegenüber' never precedes pronouns, it follows them. But it can either precede or follow a noun.
Also note that 'seit' is only used for expressing time, and in German, it's used with the present tense, unlike English, which uses 'since' with the perfect tense (tenses will be discussed in detail in later lessons).

Short Form

In some instances, the preposition and the definite article are joined together.

  • bei + dem = beim
  • von + dem = vom
  • zu + dem = zum
  • zu + der = zur

Preposition + Genitive Case

The final group of German prepositions in this lesson is the one that always takes the genitive case.

Prepositions + Genitive Case
trotz despite, in spite of
während during
wegen because of
(an)statt instead of

You'll probably use this type of German prepositions more frequently at a more advanced level.

Examples of Prepositoin + Genitive Case
Er kommt trotz seiner Krankheit zur Schule He's coming to school in spite of his illness
Während unserer Ferien fahren wir nach Spanien During our vacation we're going to Spain
Wir konnten wegen ihrer Verspätung nicht gleich abfahren We couldn't depart immediately because of her delay
(An)statt seiner Schwester ist seine Tante gekommen His aunt came instead of his sister

This ends the first lesson on German prepositions. Make sure to solve this lesson's exercise, and to clearly memorize the case of each preposition before heading onto the second part of the lesson.