German Prepositions

Prepositions are small words which precede a noun or pronoun to tell us about the noun’s position. English words such as ‘on,’ ‘under’ and ‘in’ are all prepositions.

German prepositions work in the same way. They are slightly more complicated than English prepositions in that we need to consider the case (nominative, accusative, dative or genitive) of the noun or pronoun that comes afterwards. 

A German preposition will signal the case that its noun must be in.

For example, ‘Die Blumen sind für meine Frau’ (The flowers are for my wife) has the word ‘meine Frau’ in accusative, because nouns following ‘für’ are always in the accusative.

If you need a reminder about cases, please do check out other articles.

Accusative Prepositions

All the following prepositions have their related noun in the accusative case.

  • Bis – until, up to, as far as
  • Durch – through by means of
  • Für – for
  • Gegen – against, towards
  • Ohne – without
  • Um – around, for

(The postposition entlang means along and takes the accusative. It is a postposition because it comes after the accusative noun, not before it.)


Ich koche für meinen Kollegen-

– I am cooking for my colleague.

Wir gehen ohne dich.

– We’re going without you.

Ich habe gegen den Bericht gestimmt.

– I voted against the report.

Die Identität des Schuldigen ist allerdings bis heute unbekannt.

– The culprit’s identity remains unknown to this day.

Dative Prepositions

  • Ab – from (in time expressions)
  • Aus – from, out of
  • Außer – except for
  • Bei – at, near, at the house of
  • Dank – thanks to
  • Gegenüber – opposite
  • Mit – with
  • Nach – after, to
  • Seit – since, for
  • Von – from, of
  • Zu – to


Ich wohne bei meinem Mitbewohner.

– I live with my flatmate.

Ich habe es von meinem Cousin gehört.

– I heard it from my cousin.

Wir gehen zum Konzert.

– We’re going to the concert.

Wir mieten hier schon seit jahren unsere Autos.

– We’ve rented our cars from here for years.

Ich kenn hier nicht viele Menschen, außer meine Tante.

– I don’t know many people here, except for my aunt.

Wechselpräpositionen (Two-way prepositions)

Wechselpräpositionen are prepositions which can take both the accusative and the dative, depending on the context:

  • The accusative describes a change of position
  • The dative describes a static position.


Ich setze den Brotteig auf den Teller.

– I put the bread-dough on the plate. (The bread dough has changed position - accusative)

Der Brotteig steht auf dem Teller.

– The bread-dough is on the plate. (The bread dough isn’t moving - dative)

  • an – on (a vertical surface)
  • auf – on (horizontal surface)
  • hinter – behind
  • in – in, into
  • neben – next to
  • über – above
  • unter – under
  • vor – in front of
  • zwischen – between

Genitive Prepositions

The final group are the genitive prepositions. These have been left until last, because the genitive is falling out of favour in modern German (especially spoken German) and using it with these prepositions can seem old-fashioned.

So don’t be surprised if you see these prepositions taking a dative instead. But if you want to be totally correct, they should take a genitive.

  • anstatt (or statt) – instead of
  • außerhalb – outside of
  • beiderseits – on both sides
  • oberhalb – above
  • unterhalb – below
  • während – during


ToyWorld akzeptiert keine Bestellungen für Lieferungen außerhalb der Schweiz

– ToyWorld accepts no orders for delivery outside of Germany.

Während der Nachfrist

-During the grace period

Warme dich selbst anstatt des Zimmers

-Warm yourself instead of the room

German Prepositional Contractions

As a bonus, it’s good for us to know that certain prepositions can combine with the article of the word that comes next. 

For example, we would say ich gehe zum Arzt rather than ich gehe zu dem Arzt. 

The prepositional contractions are:

an + das = ans

an + dem = am

auf + das = aufs

bei + dem = beim

durch + das = durchs

für + das = fürs

in + das = ins

in + dem = im

über + das = übers

um + das = ums

unter + das = unters

von + dem = vom

vor + das = vors

vor + dem = vorm

zu + dem = zum

zu + der = zur

A quick note on translating prepositions

As we have seen, German prepositions (on the whole) match their English counterparts. But some prepositions vary in meaning between the two languages.

For example, the German sentence ‘Was ist auf dem Fernsehen?’ says ‘What is on TV?’ but means ‘What is on top of the TV?’ So you’d be talking about an ornament, or perhaps a pet, sitting atop the television set.

If you wanted to ask what programme someone was watching, you’d need to ask ‘Was ist im Fernsehen?’ (which makes sense because the programme is in the TV rather than on it!)

So, while this article has been a thorough guide to German prepositions, there are some translation irregularities that it’s good to look out for. 

Darren has been a language teacher for sixteen years, and has taught all ages from pre-school to adults. He has been a German speaker since he was 12 years old.

Why not use some prepositions in our online German meetups (7-day free trial) or try our online intensive courses from A2-C1 and business German.

I'm the founder of Deutsch Gym. In the past I've worked in startups as a marketer and frontend developer and surfed a few waves along the way. I moved to Berlin from Ireland a few years ago and learned German - prompting the idea for Deutsch Gym.
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