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Prepositions and prepositional phrases

Introduction

Prepositions are small words that are placed in front of nouns or pronouns. Examples in English are: in, under, from, after, for, through, next to. A prepositional phrases is a group of 2 or more words that start with a preposition and end with a noun or pronoun. Here are some prepositional phrases: in March, under the bed, from me, after lunch, for a long time, through the park, next to her.

Do a quiz to identify prepositions (and other parts of speech).

German prepositions

German prepositions are quite easy to learn and are similar in use to their English equivalents. The difference is that all German prepositions are followed by one of three German cases (accusative, dative, genitive). It is essential, therefore, that the speaker or writer of German knows which case is associated with each preposition. Only then can he or she be sure of choosing the correct form of the article, adjective or noun.

The first three groups of prepositions are easy because they always take the same case. Here is a list of the most common ones, with their most common meanings:

Accusative case
bis - until
durch - through
für - for
gegen - against
ohne - without
um - around
Dative case
aus - out
ausser - except for
bei - near. at
nach - after, to
mit - with
seit - since
von - from
zu - to
Genitive case
statt - instead of
trotz - in spite of
während - during
wegen - because of

Following is the fourth group of very common two-way prepositions, that can take either the accusative or the dative case:


Accusative/dative
an - at, on
auf - on
hinter - behind
in - in
neben - next to
über - over
unter - under
vor - in front of
zwischen - between

The above prepositions take the accusative case when there is movement towards or into the place indicated by the noun. They take the dative case when there is no movement towards or into the place indicated by the noun. Here are some examples:

Accusative case:

Dative case:

Note: The dative is used in the following sentences, even though there is movement:

There is movement in each of the above sentences, but there is no movement towards or into the nouns (river, cage, bed, etc). The mouse remains under the bed; it doesn't run from the door and then under the bed. The tiger remains in its cage; it does not enter its cage from outside of it. The girl remains in the river. There is no mention of her jumping into the water from the river bank. And so on.

In summary: The accusative case is used with the two-way prepositions only when there is movement towards or into the place indicated by the noun or pronoun.


Note: English noun phrases starting with the preposition of .. are usually conveyed in German by the genitive case without a preposition. Here are some examples:

Note: English noun phrases starting with the preposition to .. and expressing the indirect object are usually conveyed in German by the dative case without a preposition. Here are some examples:


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