German Prepositions taking the Accusative Case
In German, prepositions can be followed by different cases. An accusative preposition will always be followed by an object (a noun or pronoun) in the accusative case.
There are two kinds
of accusative prepositions: (1
) those that are always accusative
and never anything else, and (2
) certain “two-way” prepositions that can be either accusative or dative,
depending on how they are used. See the chart below for a complete list of each type.
Luckily, there are only five accusative prepositions you need to learn and memorize. Another thing that makes this group of prepositions easier is the fact that only the masculine gender (der
) changes in the accusative case. Neither the plural nor the feminine (die
) and neuter (das
) genders change in the accusative.
In the German-English examples below, the accusative preposition is bolded
. The object of the preposition is italicized:
- Without money it could not . | Without money it will not work.
- She goes the river along. | She is walking along the river.
- He works for a big company . | He works for a big company .
- We drive through the city . | We’re driving through the city .
- Do you write a letter to your father? | Are you writing a letter to your father ?
Notice in the second example above that the object (Fluss
) comes before
the preposition (entlang
). Some German prepositions use this reverse word order, but the object must still be in the correct case.
Here is a list of the accusative-only prepositions and their English translations. The most commonly used are italicized.
||until, to, by
|NOTE: The accusative preposition entlang, unlike the others, usually goes after its object, as in the example above.
||around, for; at (time)
|*NOTE: The German preposition bis is technically an accusative preposition, but it is almost always used with a second preposition (bis zu, bis auf, etc.) in a different case, or without an article (bis April, bis Montag, bis Bonn).
|NOTE: The meaning of a two-way preposition often depends on whether it is used with the accusative or dative case. See below for the grammar rules.
||at, on, to
||at, to, on, upon
||beside, near, next to
||about, above, across, over
||in front of, before;
The basic rule for determining whether a two-way preposition should have an object in the accusative or dative case is motion
. If there is motion towards something or to a specific location (wohin?
, where to?), then usually the object is accusative
. If there is no motion at all or random motion going nowhere in particular (wo?
, where (at)?), then that is usually dative
. This rule applies only to the so-called “two-way” or “dual” prepositions in German. (For example, a dative-only preposition like nach
is always dative, whether there is motion or not.) Here are two sets of examples showing motion versus location:
- Wir gehen ins Kino. (in das, accus.) | We’re going to the movies/cinema. (motion towards)
- We are in the cinema. ( Where, dat. ) | We’re at the movies / cinema . (location)
- Put the book on the table. ( Accusative ) | Put / Lay the book on the table. (motion towards)
- The book is on the table. ( Dative ) | The book’s lying on the table. (Location)
||Examples – Examples
|by through, by
||by the city through the city
through the forest through the forest
by the wind (Caused) by the wind
|along along, down
||the road down the street
along the river along the river
Walk along this road. Go down this path.
|NOTE: Remember, entlang usually goes follows its object, as above.
||for the book for the book
for him for him
for me for me
|compared against, for
||against all expectations against all expectations
against the wall against the wall
against headache (medicine) for a headache
against me against me
||without the car without the car
without him him without
without me without me (count me out)
|um around, for, at
||the lake around the lake
to a spot (apply) for a job
he is applying for a job. He’s applying for a position.
At ten o’clock at ten o’clock
in the ACCUSATIVE
|du you (fam.)
|her you (guys)
||you you (guys)
|You you (formal)
||You you (formal)
|All of the accusative prepositions except “entlang,” “ohne” and “bis” form what are called “da-compounds” to express what would be a prepositional phrase in English. Da-compounds are not used for people (personal pronouns). Prepositions beginning with a vowel add a connecting r. See the examples below.
|dadurch through it, by it
||by him / her through him / her
|it for it
||for him / her for him / her
|hand against it
||against him / her against him / her
|therefore for that reason
||around him / her around him / her
A single German two-way preposition—such as in
—may have more than one English translation, as you can see above. In addition, you’ll find many of these prepositions have yet another meaning in common everyday idioms and expressions: auf dem Lande
(in the country), um drei Uhr
(at three o’clock), unter uns
(among us), am Mittwoch
(on Wednesday), vor einer Woche
(a week ago), etc. Such expressions can be learned as vocabulary without worrying about the grammar involved.