Prepos, hooray! Ho! Hey! Ho! Let’s blast this German party off into the atmosphere! Today, we are going to be all over the place: we’ll be in, on, in front of, next to, under, you name it! Our topic is prepositions with the Accusative and Dative case so strap on your inflatable armbands and let’s jump into the pool of prepositions. It’s time to get this party started!
The Accusative case - review
Before you fill up your Red Solo Cup, let’s review the Accusative case so you can set your focus and be ready to glide onto the prepositions dance floor.
I’m assuming you have already covered the Accusative case. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be here flirting with prepositions and cases.
As you remember, the Accusative is used after certain verbs and certain prepositions. For the grammar nerd among you: it refers to the direct object in the sentence and it’s the person or thing that the verb is happening to.
- Ich kaufe den Pullover. (I buy the sweater.)
Here, “der Pullover” is our direct object and the verb “kaufen” indicates that we have to use the Accusative. Do you know other verbs that require the Accusative? Don’t worry, I won’t give you a bad grade if you don’t remember!
The verbs could be:
- nehmen (to take) Ich nehme einen Salat. (I take a salad / I’ll have a salad.)
- kaufen (to buy) Ich kaufe den Salat. (I buy the salad.)
- sehen (to see) Ich sehe einen Ball. (I see a ball.)
- haben (to have) Ich habe einen Flaschenöffner. (I have a bottle opener.)
- brauchen (to need) Ich brauche einen Kaffee. (I need a coffee.)
- ... and many more. About 95% of German verbs demand the Accusative case.
Wanna exercise the Accusative verbs? Check out Anja’s video with the most common verbs!
Native speakers also have magic questions that they apply to help identify the Accusative case: “Wen” (who) and “was” (what). However, these questions don’t really make sense if you’re not really super deep into the language, so don’t focus too much on them.
In the Accusative case, there are also some changes in the articles. Luckily, those only occur with the masculine article (we have a lot more changes in the other cases ).
The Dative case - review
The Dative case can be a little trickier, beginning with the fact that in grammar lingo we are talking about an “indirect object”. The indirect concept can be a little bit abstract to understand sometimes, so don’t worry if you find it hard to grasp.
The most important thing and the key to knowing the Dative case is that: like in the Accusative case, we also have certain verbs and prepositions that require the Dative case.
- Ich fahre mit dem Auto. (I’m going by car.)
In the Nominative case, “Auto” has the article “der”. But because we have a preposition, in this case “mit” before the noun, we change the article to “dem”.
- Er glaubt mir. (He believes me.)
Here we have the Dative pronoun “mir” which would be “ich” in the Nominative.
“Glauben” is a verb that requires the Dative, only the Dative and nothing but the Dative. You’re welcome.
There are many other verbs that need the Dative case. We covered those verbs here.
Oh, and here is the table with the articles for the Dative case for reference.
Prepositions only for the Accusative
Alright, my dear student, the party isn’t over yet. We’ll let loose when we get to the two-way prepositions.
There are certain prepositions that only require the Accusative case. Here’s a funny acronym to help you remember them: DOGFUB.
- durch (through): Das Auto fährt durch den Tunnel. (The car is driving through the tunnel.)
- ohne (without): Wir verreisen ohne dich. (We’re going traveling without you.)
- gegen (against): Ich laufe gegen den Baum. (I’m running against the tree.)
- für (for): Die Blumen sind für ihn. (The flowers are for him.)
- um (around): Der Hund läuft um den Baum. (The dog is running around the tree.)
- bis (until): Bis nächsten Montag. (See you next Monday!)
Let’s step outside for a minute and catch some fresh air. Shake off any tension you might have, relax your muscles and watch Anja’s video about Accusative prepositions. It’s fun and it’ll help you to memorize them:
Prepositions only for the Dative
I feel recharged, how about you? I hope you’re full of energy again, because things are getting interesting. The following prepositions always require only the Dative case, which is pretty nice, I think. Unfortunately, there is no funny acronym to remember them. If there were, it would probably sound like a cat walking on the piano.
- ab (from): Ab nächster Woche. (Starting from next week.)
- aus (from, out of): Er kommt aus der Türkei. (He is from Turkey.)
- außer (except, but): Außer meinem Freund kenne ich niemanden auf der Party. (I don’t know anybody at the party, except my friend.)
- bei (at, near): Die Spielsachen sind bei meiner Mutter. (The toys are at my mother’s.)
- gegenüber (across): Sie steht ihm gegenüber. (She’s standing across from him.)
- mit (with): Ich fahre immer mit dem Bus. (I always ride the bus.)
- nach (to / after): Nach der Pause haben wir Deutsch. (After the break we have German.)
- seit (since): Seit letzter Woche ist er krank. (He’s been sick since last week.)
- von (from): Der Brief ist von meinem Vater. (The letter is from my father.)
- zu (to): Sie fahren zu ihren Eltern. (They are going to their parents.)
Prepositions for Dative and Accusative
Alright, you little party monster, now it’s time for the most interesting part of our session. We’re going to talk about prepositions that can take either the Dative or the Accusative case, depending on the situation. These friends of ours are called “Wechselpräpositionen” (two-way prepositions).
How do we know when to apply the Accusative or the Dative case with these prepositions? The answer is super simple!
When we talk about a movement, from point A to B, we apply the Accusative case. Here’s an easy way to remember:
ACtive -> ACcusative
Ask the magic question, “Wohin” (where to?), and there you go. Now you know that a movement is involved.
Our prepositions are:
- in (in) - Ich gehe in den Zoo. (I’m going to the zoo.)
- an (to, on, at) - Er fährt an den See. (He drives to the lake.)
- auf (on) - Wir klettern auf den Baum. (We’re climbing on the tree.)
- neben (next to) - Sie stellt den Stuhl neben den Tisch. (She puts the chair next to the table.)
- hinter (behind) - Der Ball fällt hinter die Kiste. (The ball falls behind the box.)
- über (above, over) - Das Flugzeug fliegt über den Ozean. (The plane is flying over the ocean.)
- unter (under) - Die Katze läuft unter den Tisch. (The cat runs under the table.)
- vor (in front of) - Der Junge springt vor den Fernseher. (The boy is jumping in front of the tv.)
- zwischen (between) - Ich setze die Pflanze zwischen den Kaktus und den Apfelbaum. (I’m putting the plant between the cactus and the apple tree.)
As you can see, in all of the examples there is an action involved, a movement from point A to point B.
Things change a bit as we use the Dative case with the same prepositions. The difference here is that we’re talking about a static situation. In the post about the Dative case we named it after Jabba the Hutt, who is totally passive and doesn’t move. Maybe this will help you remember. And before I forget, there is also a magic question here: “Wo?” (where?).
Here are the examples with the same prepositions but with the Dative case:
- in (in) - Ich bin mit Freunden im (in + dem = im) Zoo. (I’m at the zoo with friends.)
- an (on, at) - Er liegt am (an + dem = am) See. (He’s lying at the lake.)
- auf (on) - Wir sitzen auf dem Baum. (We’re sitting in the tree.)
- neben (next to) - Der Stuhl steht neben dem Tisch. (The chair is standing next to the table.)
- hinter (behind) - Der Ball liegt hinter der Kiste. (The ball is lying behind the box.)
- über (above) - Das Flugzeug befindet sich über dem Ozean. (The plane is located above the ocean.)
- unter (under) - Die Katze schläft unter dem Tisch. (The cat is sleeping under the table.)
- vor (in front of) - Der Junge steht vor dem Fernseher. (The boy is standing in front of the TV.)
- zwischen (between) - Die Pflanze steht zwischen dem Kaktus und dem Apfelbaum. (The plant is standing between the cactus and the apple tree.)
Great job! What a smart cookie you are. As you can see, the prepositions can be a little tricky at first, but once you understand the concept they’re not difficult at all.
Do you want to recap once more? Let’s watch this video where we're playing hide and seek, using the prepositions. After that, we’ll refill our Red Solo Cup in the last section of the post. Enjoy!
How to know when to use Dative and/or Accusative
Looks like the preposition party is starting to wind down. But let’s not leave yet. Let’s look at where you might need some help to understand which case to use in a sentence. I’ll give you a set of 4 questions that will definitely help you. If you follow these questions, then I promise you will never have problems with cases!
Question 1: Is there a preposition?
Now that we have covered the topic of prepositions, you will already be a master of using the right case with all the Accusative and Dative prepositions.
Let’s have a little test. But don’t worry, there are no grades or judgements. Let’s say we have the preposition “mit”. Which case do you apply? Exactly, the Dative case. And what about “über”? Yes, you can do both, Accusative or Dative, you only need to be careful about the verb you want to use.
Question 2: What verb are you using?
If you remember, there are certain verbs that require certain cases. We covered this in the blog about the Accusative and the Dative case. Feel free to go back to the post to have a look at it. If you are not sure which case you need after the verb, check your dictionary to be sure.In the dictionary you will find the abbreviations:
- “jdn.” for “jemanden” (somebody), which is the Accusative and
- “jdm.” for “jemandem” (somebody), which is the Dative case
- "etw." for "etwas" (something), which usually is the Accusative case.
So, for example, in the below example you can see that "geben" demands the Dative and Accusative:
- Ich gebe dem Mann einen Apfel. (I give an apple to the man.)
Question 3: Is there a verb with a fixed preposition?
Just like in English, there are also verbs in German that go together with a preposition. There are. Like, totally. Unfortunately, you will have to remember these combinations OR alternatively look them up in the dictionary.
If we take the preposition “an”, as you know, we can use the Accusative or the Dative case, depending on the verb that it goes with.
- glauben an (+Accusative) - to believe in someone / something
- teilnehmen an (+Dative) - to take part in something
Here is an example of how it will look in the dictionary.
Question 4: Is there a direct or indirect object?
In our review, we covered the concept of direct and indirect object. That helps us to understand which case we need. Remember, the direct object requires the Accusative case, the indirect object needs the Dative case.
- Ich gebe dem Mann den Brief. (I'm giving the man the letter.)
If you need extra assistance, no worries, there is always a plan B. You can also rely on a dictionary for this question. However, in the course of learning the language you will probably memorize those verbs anyway. If not, then I really recommend using a dictionary, since that will help you avoid a lot of nasty headaches.
Here’s how it will look in the dictionary:
Before you go-go…
The DJ is spinning the slow jams now. I guess that means it’s time to head out. Before we part ways, I have to thank you for sticking with me until the end. I know German can be overwhelming at times. I really appreciate your patience. And congratulations on your new-found knowledge!
I hope you will be able to apply it soon.