What are prepositions?

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Prepositions are words that define the relationship between different elements in a sentence. They usually appear before a noun and its article or other determiners and give information about:

• directions: He is going to Frankfurt.
• positions: The key is on the table.
• time: The play starts at 8 pm.
• manner: She came by car.
• reasons: They went for a walk despite the weather

Prepositions require different cases

English and German prepositions are very similar in the way they function. In German however, a word or words which follow a preposition have to take the appropriate case endings. Here is an overview of the most commonly used prepositions and the case they require:

AccusativeDativeAccusative or dativGenitive
bis until, by
durch through, by
für for
gegen against
around, about
ohne without
um at, round
aus out of, from
außer apart from, out of
bei by (near), at
gegenüber opposite
mit with, by (train etc.)
nach after, to
seit since, for
von from, of
zu to
an at, near, on
auf on (top of)
hinter behind
in in, to
neben next to
über above, over
unter under
vor before, in front of
zwischen between
statt instead of
trotz despite
während during
wegen because of

The following sections will explain these prepositions in more detail.