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5.5 Prepositions

Prepositions which take the accusative case
Prepositions are words such as "in", "on" and "over" which stand in front of a noun or pronoun to relate it to the rest of the sentence. In German, when these prepositions are used, the words for "the" (der/die/das) and "a" (ein) alter their endings depending on the case in which they are used.

We are already familiar with the accusative case, and have explained how "der" changes into "den" in the accusative case, and "ein" changes into "einen". This same change from "der" to "den" also happens after certain prepositions - we say that these prepositions "take" the accusative case. Some of the more commonly used German prepositions are listed below:

  Preposition Example
durch durch das Hotel
through the hotel
entlang die Straße entlang
along the street
für für den Mann
for the man
um um die Ecke
round the corner

The dative case
Many prepositions however take a case which is new to us - the dative case. For the definite article, the dative case means that both the masculine "der" and the neuter "das" change into "dem", and the feminine "die" changes into "der".

As regards to the indefinite article, the dative case means that both the masculine and the neuter "ein" change into "einem", whereas the feminine "eine" changes into "einer".

Some of the most commonly used German prepositions that take the dative case are:

  Prep. Example
an an der Ampel
(at the traffic lights)
in in einem Restaurant
(in a restaurant)
von 5 Minuten von der Apotheke
(five minutes from the chemist's)
vor vor dem Hotel
(in front of the hotel)
zu Wie komme ich zum Hotel?
(How do I get to the hotel?)

There is an additional difficulty however, in that some prepositions can either take the accusative or the dative case, depending on context. The prepositions "an", "in" and "vor" take the dative case when they are describing a fixed position, but the accusative case when they are describing movement - "Er geht in das Hotel". We will look at this in more detail in a subsequent chapter.

The prepositions "von" and "zu" on the other hand, always take the dative case.

Weiter! Chapter 5.6: The dative case and the articles

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