Prepositions Part 1: The Accusative 7

bis durch für ohne gegen um entlang

Prepositions Part 1: The Accusative 7

If there was a villain in languages it would be prepositions. These are tricky things that if you look them up in a dictionary you’ll get dozens of usages and then all the colloquial expressions which use them in different manners. On top of that depending on region the same language might use different prepositions: ex. British English — at the weekend / American English — on the weekend; and in German Ich gehe zur Bank. / Ich gehe auf die Bank.

In German there are four types of prepositions that we need to discuss: Prepositions which take the accusative; prepositions which take the dative; prepositions that can take either the accusative or the dative (two-way), and prepositions that take the genitive.

We’ll take this step by step in the next four blog posts so that no one gets overwhelmed.

When you learn a language, any language, you need to put your Eastern thinking cap on and practice mantras. Everything you learn should be mantrafied — verb conjugations, pronouns, and prepositions etc.

Let’s look at the accusative prepositions, but first don’t forget what our definite and indefinite articles look like in the accusative and our personal pronouns!

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

bis (until)

We often use bis for time expressions or in conjunction with other prepositions. If we use it with another preposition the second preposition determines the case. Because we usually use it with time expressions the words often do not have an article and you therefore will have a hard time noticing that it is in the accusative.


  • Bis morgen!
    • Until tomorrow!
  • Bis später Schatz!
    • Until later my dear!
  • Der Laden hat bis 21 Uhr offen.
    • The shop is open until 9pm.
  • Dieser Zug fährt nur bis Zürich Hauptbahnhof.
    • This train only goes as far as Zurich main station.

durch (through)

Durch is used when giving directions and telling people to go through something like a building or a forest. It is also used to express the idea of causality as in “through means of”. When we use it for causality it is often in a passive sentence.


  • Der Weg führt durch den dunklen Wald.
    • The path goes through the dark forest.
  • Atmen Sie durch Ihre Nase.
    • Breath through your nose.
  • Er kam durch einen Schoss ins Herz ums Leben.
    • He died from a shot to the heart.

entlang (along)

Entlang is another good preposition to use when giving directions. It means along and what makes it interesting is that it is placed after the thing that you go along.


  • Den Fluss entlang stehen Bäume.
    • There are trees along the river.
  • Gehen Sie die Bahnhofstrasse entlang
    • Go along the Bahnhofstrasse…
  • Er spazierte die Allee entlang.
    • He strolled along the boulevard.

für (for)

It looks like the English word for and means just that. Pay attention to the pronunciation [fy???] and don’t confuse it with vor [fo???].


  • Ich habe ein Geschenk für dich.
    • I have a present for you.
  • Wir treten für die Menschenrechte ein.
    • We’re stepping in for human rights.
  • Wir gehen das Schritt für Schritt noch einmal durch.
    • We’ll go through this again step by step.

gegen (against)

If you’re into sports this is an important preposition. We use it when talking about rivalries and sport matches, but also for suggesting an approximate time (around). It can also be used in a meaning similar to für (Ex. #3).


  • Er lehnte sich gegen die Wand.
    • He leaned against the wall.
  • Heute Abend spielt die Schweiz gegen Italien.
    • Switzerland is playing against Italy tonight.
  • Abgabe nur gegen Barzahlung.
    • Delivery only for cash payment. (Cash on delivery)
  • Wir werden gegen 13 Uhr erwartet.
    • We’re expected to arrive at around 1pm.

ohne (without)

If you’ve been living in Switzerland or the German speaking world for any length of time you’ve encountered this word pretty much every time you’ve been in a restaurant – “Wasser, mit oder ohne Gas?” (Sparkling or still water?). Ohne is a nice simple preposition that you should embrace.


  • Ohne dich gehe ich niergendwo hin.
    • I won’t go anywhere without you.
  • Ohne zu grüssen ging er an mir vorbei.
    • Without saying hello he simply passed me.
  • Oben ohne.
    • Topless and/or bald.

um (at / around / by)

Unlike the simple ohne, um can have several meanings. We most often use um to tell time, when unlike gegen it actually means a specific time. We can also use it when giving directions and you want to say something is around the corner (um die Ecke).


  • Der Preis ist um zehn Rappen gestiegen.
    • The price increased by 10 cents.
  • Er fliegt in 80 Tagen mit einem Luftballon um die Welt.
    • He’s flying around the world in 80 days with a hot air balloon.
  • Das Konzert beginnt um neunzehn Uhr.
    • The concert starts at 7pm.

The prepositions above: bis, durch, für, gegen, ohne, um and entlang are the most common accusative prepositions. Learn these by heart and German will become that much easier.

Other accusative prepositions that you might run into are:

à (at), betreffend (concerning/anent), je (per), kontra (against), per (per), pro (per), versus (against), via (via), wider (against).

 As you can see many are just different words to express the same idea as the seven most important ones.

Learn with a Picture

One of my students drew this graphical representation of the accusative prepositions to help him remember them. I added the für and changed the gegen. I hope that this is of help to some of you.


Complete the sentences with the following prepositions: bisdurchfürgegenohneum

  1. Scott will ________ einen Rappen in der Tasche nach Australien fliegen.
  2. Mein Grossvater kann ________ ihre Brille fast nichts mehr sehen.
  3. Hannes, warum nimmst du dir immer so wenig Zeit ________ deine Familie?
  4. ________ Bern sind es noch etwa 100 Kilometer.
  5. Die Bäckerei finden Sie gleich hier ________ die Ecke.
  6. Kinder, warum müsst ihr denn immer ________ alle Pfützen laufen? (Pfützen = puddles)
  7. Am Wochenende spielt FC Zürich ________ FC Basel.
  8. Henrik, warum schaust du andauernd ________ das Schlüsselloch?
  9. ________ wen ist dieses teure Geschenk?
  10. Luka geht schon wieder ________ seine Freundin in den Ausgang.
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ohne, ohne, für, bis, um, durch, gegen, durch, für, ohne
  1. kidanekidane09-19-2013

    Hi, I am extremely happy with all your articles. I am a beginner to learn German as I am a new habitat in Switzerland. But I have two problems 1. I know a lot of German words but I am still unable to use them. 2. The free German learning resources I get on the Internet are somewhat different from what is speaking in my environment. So The solution is and if you are ready to help people like me, 1. to post an audio (or may be a video) on your website and 2. to add some articles on the main difference between the German Deutsch and the Schweiz Deutsch.

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