Go to the homepage of our German Course Chapter 11: Booking Accommodation University of Portsmouth
11.10 Prepositions and questions

It is possible in English (although not always strictly grammatically correct!) to place a preposition at the end of a question. In spoken English therefore you might hear "for which date is this?" or "which date is this for?". This second option does not exist in German as the preposition must be the first element in a question followed by the interrogative as second element. If the interrogative is not invariable (i.e. if its endings can change), then the case of the interrogative - and thus its endings - is determined by the preposition.

We have encountered the following combinations of questions and prepositions in this and previous chapters:

Auf welchen Namen gehen die Zimmer?
("In which name should I book the rooms?")
Für welches Datum?
("For which date?")
Von welchem Gleis fährt der Zug?
("From which platform does the train leave?")
Mit welchem Bus fährst du?
("Which bus are you travelling on?")
Invariable interrogatives
Um wie viel Uhr wird das Frühstück serviert?
("At what time is breakfast served?")
Von wann bis wann?
("From when to when?")

(If you need reminding about how "welcher" declines, click here to return to the appropriate page in Chapter 6.

Was für...?
Although the question phrase "was für...?" (= what kind of...?) is comprised of a pronoun and a preposition, it should be considered as a single concept which behaves according to the rules outlined above. This means that the case of the noun that follows "was für...?" depends on the role of the phrase in the clause and not on "für" - i.e. it does not mean that any noun following "was für...?" is automatically in the accusative case. Equally, "was für...?" can be preceded by a preposition which then determines the case of any subsequent noun.

Look at the following examples using the weak masculine noun "der Mensch" (see previous page):

Was für ein Mensch ist er?
("What kind of a person is he?")
Was für einen Menschen siehst du?
("What sort of a person can you see?")
Was für Freizeitmöglichkeiten gibt es im Hotel?
("What sort of leisure facilities are there in the hotel?")
Mit was für einem Menschen ist deine Schwester verlobt?
("With what sort of man is your sister engaged?")
In was für einer Pension übernachten wir?
("What sort of guest-house are we spending the night in?")

Questions involving "wie...?"
Note the following different question constructions involving "wie...?" that we have encountered in this chapter:

Wie lange bleiben Sie?
("How long are you staying?")
Um wie viel Uhr wird das Frühstück serviert?
("At what time is breakfast served?")
Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?
("How may I help you?")
Wie viele Personen sind das?
("How many people will that be?")
Wie weit ist es zum Stadtzentrum?
("How far is it to the city centre?")

1. Note the type of constructions required for responding to the question "Wie weit ist es zum Stadtzentrum?":

  • Wie weit ist es zum Stadtzentrum?
    (How far is it to the city centre?)
  • Das Hotel ist circa sechs Kilometer vom Stadtzentrum entfernt.
    (The hotel is approximately six kilometres away from the city centre.)
  • Unsere Pension ist nur 25 Minuten Fahrtzeit vom Stadtzentrum entfernt.
    (Our guest-house is only 25 minutes travel away from the city centre.)
  • Die Jugendherberge befindet sich nur wenige Minuten Fußweg vom Stadtkern entfernt.
    (The youth hostel is only a few minutes walk from the city centre.)
  • Der Gasthof liegt nur 15 Gehminuten vom Stadtzentrum entfernt.
    (The inn is only 15 minutes walk from the city centre.)
  • Das Stadtzentrum ist etwa 15 Gehminuten entfernt.
    (The city centre is about 15 minutes walk away.)

2. When in German-speaking countries, remember to give all distances in metres and kilometres, and not yards and miles!

Weiter! Chapter 11.11: New prepositions

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