Go to the homepage of our German Course Chapter 10: Daily Life University of Portsmouth
10.18 Prepositions with motion and place

The prepositions "in" und "aus"
As a general rule, the preposition "in" (+ Accusative) is used for going to places which one will then be "inside". To describe being "inside" such places - which include rooms and most buildings - you should use "in" (+ Dative). When leaving such places, you use the preposition "aus". This preposition always takes the dative case, even though motion is involved.

Ich gehe ins Badezimmer.
("I go into the bathroom.")
Ich gehe in die Küche.
("I go into the kitchen.")
Ich bin im Badezimmer.
("I am in the bathroom.")
Ich bin in der Küche.
("I am in the kitchen.")
Ich gehe aus dem Badezimmer.
("I go out of the bathroom.")
Ich gehe aus der Küche.
("I go out of the kitchen.")

Point 1German also uses the preposition "in" (+ Accusative) where we would not necessarily do so in English:

  • Gehen wir ins Konzert!
    (Let's go to the concert!)
  • Herr Dr. Schmidt geht regelmäßig ins Theater.
    (Dr. Schmidt regularly goes to the theatre.)
  • Ich gehe ins Stadtzentrum!
    (I'm going to the city centre.)
  • Im Winter fahren wir in die Berge.
    (In winter we go into the mountains.)

Point 2For a number of German buildings and public places, you should use the preposition "zu" (+ Dative) for motion towards, "an" (+ Dative) to translate position ("at" or "in") and "von" (+ Dative) to translate motion away. We have already dealt with this grammatical point in Chapter 6, where the correct prepositions for travelling to and from countries are also explained.

Point 3When using the separable verb ankommen (= "to arrive"), the place where you arrive is in the dative case:

  • Ich komme um Viertel vor acht im Büro an.
    (I arrive in the office at a quarter to eight.)
  • Wann kommt sie am Flughafen an?
    (When does she arrive at the airport?)

Point 4Note too that the same prepositions are used for travelling to and from towns and cities as are used for travelling to (neuter) countries.

Wir fahren nach Werder.
("We travel to Werder.")
Mareike wohnt in Berlin.
("Mareike lives in Berlin.")
Peter kommt aus Nürnberg.
("Peter comes from Nuremberg.")

Prepositions with "die Schule"

Lars geht in die Schule.
("Lars goes to school.")
Mutti bringt mich in die Schule.
("Mummy takes me to school.")
Mareike fährt zur Schule.
("Mareike drives to school.")
Lars ist in der Schule.
("Lars is at school.")
Sie ist Lehrerin auf einer Grundschule.
("She teaches in a primary school.")
Um drei Uhr verlasse ich die Schule.
("I leave school at three o'clock.")

Point 1As a school is a building which you can be "inside", the preposition used for going into a school is "in" (+ Accusative). It cannot be used in the third example however as Mareike is driving to school. To use the German preposition "in" here would imply that she drove her car into the school building itself!

As the example suggests, you should instead use the preposition "zu" (+ Dative), which indicates motion up to, but not inside a place or building.

Point 2The preposition used for being physically inside a school is "in" (+ Dative). The prepositions "auf" (+ Dative) or "an" (+ Dative) are used with academic institutions at which a person is employed.

Point 3The verb "verlassen" equates to "to leave" in English. It is used to describe movements out of buildings as opposed to rooms. "Verlassen" is a transitive verb, which means that it has to be followed by an accusative (direct) object - i.e. "die Schule". You cannot simply say "Ich verlasse".

Prepositions with "das Haus"
"Das Haus" is literally the German word for a house. Even though a large number of Germans live in a flat (= "die Wohnung"), "das Haus" is nevertheless used to translate "home".

Ich gehe nach Hause.
("I go home.")
Ich bin zu Hause.
("I am at home.")
Ich gehe aus dem Haus.
Ich verlasse das Haus.

("I leave home.")

In older German, some masculine and neuter nouns, particularly those of one syllable, added "-e" in the dative singular. This is now extremely uncommon in modern German. The practice persists however with certain set phrases involving "das Haus" - the phrases "nach Hause" kommen and "zu Hause sein" always add the additional "-e".

It is rare however to find the "-e" in the expression "aus dem Haus gehen". You must of course never add it in the expression "ich verlasse das Haus", as the noun is here in the accusative case.

Prepositions used with meals
Note the different prepositional constructions used to translate the different meals of the day:

Zum Frühstück esse ich Müesli.
("I have muesli for breakfast.")
Zu Mittag esse ich eine Pizza.
("I have a pizza for lunch.")
Zum Abendbrot esse ich Fisch.
("I have fish for tea.")

The German word for "lunch" is "das Mittagessen", but the phrase for "to have lunch" is "zu Mittag essen". You would use the construction "zum Mittagessen" when you are describing what there is for lunch - i.e. "Zum Mittagessen gibt es eine Pizza" ("There is pizza for lunch").

Weiter! Chapter 10.19: Vocabulary - Clothes (1)

Go back to the top of the page Nach oben

Print this Document Print This Page

Homepage: Paul Joyce German Course
© Paul Joyce