Prepositions 2: Datives on the Danube

Screen Shot 2011 09 28 At 13 00 35

Prepositions 2: Datives on the Danube

For over a week now you’ve been busy learning your accusative prepositions: bis, durch, entlang, für, gegen, ohne, um. You’ve done so well that you’ve even come up with your own mantras, rhymes, and even songs. Congratulations, you’re on your way.

As I hinted at last week and as you’ve surely already encountered there are other prepositions that change things a great deal more than the accusative prepositions — the dative prepositions.

Again it’s important for us to look at what our definite and indefinite articles as well as our personal pronouns in the dative.

*Note that there is no plural form of the indefinite article, however, kein changes in the same way that ein does.

Like the accusative prepositions I highly recommend that you also learn these in a mantra like way. So enough with the beating around the bush on this, so here they are the most used and important dative prepositions: ab, aus, ausser, bei, gegenüber, mit, nach, seit, von, zu.

ab (from)

We often use this when designating the start time of an event and or the start of a journey. When used to talk about the location where something starts it can sometimes be replaced  with von.


  • Ab dem 01. Oktober fallen unsere Preise nochmals.
    • Starting on October 1 our prices are going to fall again.
  • Die günstigen Sommerfahrkarten sind ab Montag in der ganzen Schweiz gültig.
    • The cheapest summer tickets are valid throughout Switzerland as of Monday.
  • Im Preis inbegriffen ist der Flug ab Zürich.
    • The price includes the flight from Zurich.

aus (from / in / of / out of)

Aus gets used quite often. I’m sure you remember your first German lesson when you had to say where you were from: “Hallo, ich bin Christian. Ich komme aus der Schweiz.” We also use aus for saying what things are made from and for giving reasons.


  • Dieser Käse kommt aus der Schweiz.
    • This cheese is from Switzerland.
  • Der Ring is aus reinem Gold. Er stammt aus dem 12. Jahrhundert.
    • This ring is made of pure gold. It’s from the 12th century.
  • Er hat sie aus Liebe geheiratet, sie ihn aus einer Laune heraus.
    • He married her out of love, she him on a whim.

ausser ( bar / beside / besides / except / outside)

People often forget that this is a dative preposition, but ausser can be very handy. We use it for making exceptions or saying that something is outside. In Germany and Austria it is spelt with an ß). It also comes up in the cantonal name of Appenzell Ausser Rhoden.


  • Das steht ausser Frage.
    • That’s beyond all question.
  • Ich bin ganz ausser mir über die Sache.
    • I’m completely beside myself about the matter.
  • Ausser mir war niemand da.
    • Nobody was there except for me.
  • Ich bin ausser Haus.
    • I’m out of the office.

bei (at / by / during / near / with / in / next to / on )

You’re probably thinking to yourself, well it can be simply used as any preposition, so why even learn the others. But bei is a little tricky, as you learn more an more German you’ll become more acquainted with its usage. We use bei to suggest that at some specific person’s place (at). When we use bei before a verb turned into a noun (Essen, Lesen, Lernen) it means during the act of doing that (Note: bei + dem = beim and all substantified infinitives are das, so in the dative dem). Often concurrently occurring things use bei as well. When we want to say over a glass of wine or other drink we use bei. For saying the temperature at which something is to be cooked or an action takes place we also use bei.


  • Ihr Mann verschwand bei Nacht und Nebel.
    • Her husband disappeared in the night and fog.
  • Gestern war ich bei meinen Eltern zum Abendessen. 
    • I was at my parents last night for dinner.
  • Es sind beim Spülen zwei teure Sektgläser kaputt gegegangen.
    • Two expensive Champagne glasses broke while washing the dished. (during the act of washing the dishes).
  • Bei einem Gläschen Wodka haben wir viel gesprochen.
    • Over a vodka we spoke a lot.
  • Im Backofen 20 Minuten bei 180ºC backen.
    • Bake for 20 minutes at 180ºC in the oven.

gegenüber (face to face with / opposite to / opposite / towards)

Well two accusative prepositions put together equal a dative preposition. Gegenüber is used to say where things are located. Because we use the dative you do not have to use the German word for “to” where you would in English. When talking about behaviour towards someone we also use gegenüber. While we do not need to use the word “to” it is often followed by the preposition von.


  • Das Büro gegenüber ist unseres.
    • The office across the way is ours.
  • Das Büro liegt gegenüber dem unseres stärksten Konkurrenten.
    • The office is located opposite to our strongest competitor.  
  • Gegenüber der Vergangenheit bewegen Menschen sich heute weniger.
    • As opposed to the past people are less physically active today.
  • Sein Verhalten ihr gegenüber ärgerte sie.
    • His behaviour towards her really irked her.

mit (with)

Mit is the opposite of ohne and interestingly a dative and not an accusative preposition. We use it for stating how something is done as well, or with whom. This is one of the easiest prepositions to master.


  • Diese Arbeit kann man nur mit viel Geduld und Spucke schaffen.
    • This work can only be done with a lot of patience and spit.
  • Diese Wohnung wird mit Solarstrom beheizt.
    • This flat is heated with solar power.
  • John fährt immer mit dem Velo zur Arbeit, seine Frau dagegen mit dem Zug.
    • John always takes his bike to work, his wife, however, takes the train.
  • Ein Glas Mineralwasser mit Kohlensäure.
    • A glass of sparkling mineral water.

nach (according to / after / in / on / onto / past / to / towards)

Nach is again one of these prepositions similar to bei. Don’t fret. Learn that we use it when telling time to mean past. When we are going to most countries and cities we also go nach them. The other important one is that when we go home we go nach Hause. For giving directions we also use nach to mean “to the / turn” when use in combination with a direction (right/left).


  • Nach dem Unterricht gehen wir zusammen in die Kneipe.
    • After the lesson we’ll go to the bar together.
  • Die Langeneggers fahren im Urlaub nach Italien.
    • The Langeneggers are going to Italy for their holidays.
  • Zum Bahnhof müssen Sie die nächste Strasse nach links abbiegen.
    • You have to turn to the left at the next street to get to the train station.
  • Es ist Viertel nach drei.
    • It’s quarter past three.

seit (since)

Another simple preposition like mit. Seit simply means “since”. In German we also use seit where in English we would use “for”, when talking about time.


  • Seit letzter Woche bin ich erkältet.
    • I’ve had a cold since last week.
  • Ich habe Markus seit drei Monaten nicht mehr gesehen.
    • I haven’t seen Markus for three months.

von (by / from / in / of / off)

The two most common uses of von are simple. We use it to mean by and when talking about books, movies, paintings and other media and we want to say who wrote, made or painted it. Von is also often used with the accusative preposition bis to suggest start and end points either locally or temporally. German speakers also tend to use von instead of the genitive form, which would just have an “s” added, or in English with an apostrophe with an “s”. (Note: von + dem = vom)


  • Hannes kommt gerade vom Supermarkt.
    • Hannes is just coming from the supermarket.
  • Ist das Michaels auto oder ist es von Peter?
    • Is that Michael’s car, or is it Peter’s?
  • Von Montag bis Mittwoch muss ich beruflich nach Lugano fahren.
    • I have to go to Lugano for business from Monday till Wednesday.
  • Das Musikstück “An der schönen blauen Donau” ist von Johann Strauss II.
    • The music piece “Blue Danube Waltz” is by Johann Strauss II.

zu (at / in / to / towards)

Chances are that you will over use zu. Because we have the dative case, the pronouns often mean the equivalent of “to + pronoun”. However, we use zu like “to” in English. Some holidays like Christmas take zu to mean “at” and/or “for”. (Note: zu + dem = zum; zu + der = zur)


  • FC Zürich hat gegen FC Thun 2:0 gewonnen (zwei zu null).
    • FC Zurich won 2:0 against FC Thun.
  • Du siehst krank aus. Geh schnell zum Arzt.
    • You look sick. Go to the doctor right away.
  • Zu Weihnachten schenken wir unseren Kindern je einen neuen Laptop.
    • We’re giving each one of our children a new laptop for Christmas.

So there we have them, the most commonly used dative prepositions. Some people remember them to the tune of Johann Strauss’ “An der schönen blauen Donau” but they only sing aus, ausser, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu.

Other dative prepositions are:

binnen (within), dank (thanks to), entgegen (contrary to), entsprechend (according to), gemäss (according to), laut (in conformity with / as per), mitsamt (together with), name (near), nest (together with), vis-à-vis (across from), zufolge (according to / as a result of), zuliebe (for someone’s sake).

As you can see many of them have the same meaning as the main ones stated above. Others especially all the ones that mean according to often appear in contracts.


Complete with the correct preposition:

  1. Möchtest du heute Abend ________ mir ins Kino gehen?
  2. ________ wem ist das Lied?
  3. Diese Möbel stammen ________ dem 60er Jahren.
  4. Monika ist erst ________ drei Wochen in Zürich.
  5. ________ Chopin hört er keine klassische Musik.
  6. Woher kommst du gerade? — Ich komme gerade ________ Büro.
  7. ________ der neuen Brille sieht Patrick richtig intelligent aus.
  8. Das Hotel Schweizerhof liegt ________ vom Hauptbahnhof.
  9. ________ Kerzenschimmer schreibt der Mann einen Brief.
  10. Ich muss morgen früh ________ New York fliegen.
  11. Hier seid ihr ________ Gefahr.
  12. Dieser Wein kommt ________ Burgenland, Österreich.
  13. Wenn ich ________ Berlin fahren, bleibe ich ________ Freunden.
  14. Es ist zwanzig ________ sechs.

Quizlet Game:


mit, von, aus, seit, ausser, vom, mit, gegenüber, bei, nach, ausser, aus, nach, bei, nach

  1. totozetotoze09-28-2011


    I suppose the second and fourth columns in the table should be titled Dative and not Accusative.

    (btw thank for thsi blog, it’s really interesting)

  2. AlexAlex11-11-2013

    Tausend Dank !! Sehr praktisch 🙂

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