Linguim allows you to learn new languages completely free of charge. Choose a language and start learning!

Join | Login

Prepositions Part 2

In the previous lesson, we covered the prepositions that are always used either with the accusative or with the dative case.  The topic of this lesson is the prepositions which can be used with the accusative or the dative case depending on the situation. We will also discuss the prepositions which are used in the genitive case.

Prepositions with the accusative or dative case

As we saw previously, for most of the German prepositions, the case to be used is clear. For instance, the preposition “bei” is always used in the dative case, while “bis” is always accusative.

Unfortunately, some German prepositions are not that easy. Because, in some certain cases they MUST be accusative and in some other cases they MUST be dative. That means, it is not like that you can use the accusative and dative cases interchangeably. You have to know when it is appropriate to use which one.

The prepositions listed below are of this kind. As you will notice from their meanings, these prepositions define positions, i.e. at, on, between, in front of etc. And there is one rule to use when deciding which case you should use:

If the sentence answers the question Wo? (Where?), then use dative case, if the sentence answers the question Wohin? (Where to?) use accusative. In other words, if there is a motion, accusative is used, if not dative is used.

For example

  • im Kino means at the cinema


  • ins Kino means to the cinema

In the first sentence, dative is used: in dem Kino. Note that when the preposition in is followed by the definite article “dem”, it’s contracted as “im”. In this phrase, there is no motion, it defines that someone or something is at the cinema. For example, you could say “Ich bin im Kino” (I am at the cinema)

In the second sentence, accusative is used: in das Kino. Note that when the preposition in is followed by the definite article “das”, it’s contracted as ins. In the structure “ins Kino”, there is a motion. Therefore, accusative is used. For example, you could say “Ich gehe ins Kino” (I’m going to the cinema)

Here is the list of the prepositions which can be either dative or accusative:

an: at, on ; auf: on; hinter: behind; in: in ; neben: beside, next to; über: over; unter: under; vor: in front of ; zwischen: between

Prepositions with the genitive case

Genitive is a rare case in German. The same thing holds for the prepositions. The number of genitive prepositions is rather small.

The genitive prepositions, as we see in a later lesson, are especially important in case of dependent clauses. On the other hand, some indicate reason or location as well.

Here is the list of the genitive prepositions:

zugunsten: in favor (of) ; wegen: because of ; trotz: in spite of ; statt: instead of ; anstatt: instead of; anstelle: instead of ; anhand: with an example; vermöge: durch, aufgrund; mittels: by means of ; vermittels: by means of ; zwecks: for the purpose; anlässlich: on the occasion of ; außerhalb: outside; binnen: within; während: during; abseits: away from; inmitten: in the middle of; innerhalb: inside, within; jenseits: on the other side; oberhalb: upside; seitens: on the part of; unterhalb: below; unweit: not far from ; angesichts: in the face of; aufgrund: on the basis of; halber: for the sake of ; infolge: as a result of ; kraft: by virtue; laut: according to; mangels: for lack of ; zufolge: according to

Most of the genitive prepositions are used in the dative case in practice. Therefore, it’s enough to keep in mind that only the following prepositions should be used in the genitive case. You can use the others simply in the dative case.

anstatt; statt; außerhalb; innerhalb; trotz; während; wegen


Learn some fixed phrases formed by some of the prepositions introduced above

an und für sich: actually

an die : approximately

auf Deutsch: in German

auf jeden Fall: in any case

auf keinen Fall: in no way

auf diese Weise: in this way

über und über: all over

unter der Woche: during the week

das bleibt unter uns: no one should learn about this