What Are German Prepositions That Take the Accusative Case

There are two kinds of accusative prepositions

Woman walking along Rhine
"Sie geht den Fluss entlang." (She is walking along the river.). Westend61 / Getty Images

In German, prepositions can be followed by nouns in various 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.

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 memorize. Another thing that makes this group of prepositions easier is the fact that only the masculine gender (der) changes in the accusative case. The plural, feminine (die) and neuter (das) genders don't change in the accusative.

In the German-English examples below, the accusative preposition is bolded. The object of the preposition is italicized.

  • Ohne Geld geht's nicht. ( Without money it won't work.)
  • Sie geht den Fluss entlang. (She is walking along the river.)
  • Er arbeitet für eine große Firma. (He works for a big company.)
  • Wir fahren durch die Stadt. (We're driving through the city.)
  • Schreibst du einen Brief an deinen Vater? (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.

What Are the Accusative Preposition in German?

Here is a list of the accusative-only prepositions and their English translations.  

Accusative Prepositions
bis*until, to, by
durchthrough, by
entlangalong, down
Note: The accusative preposition entlang usually goes after its object.
gegenagainst, for
umaround, 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) in a different case, or without an article (bis April, bis Montag, bis Bonn).


Two-Way Prepositions
The meaning of a two-way preposition often changes based on whether it is used with the accusative or dative case. See below for the grammar rules.
anat, on, to
aufat, to, on, upon
inin, into
nebenbeside, near, next to
überabout, above, across, over
unterunder, among
vorin front of, before,
ago (time)

The Rules of Two-Way Prepositions

The basic rule for determining whether a two-way preposition should have an object in the accusative or dative case is motion versus location. If there is motion toward something or to a specific location (wohin?), then usually the object is accusative. If there is no motion at all or random motion going nowhere in particular (wo?), 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:

  • Accusative: Wir gehen ins Kino. (We're going to the movies.) There is a motion toward a destination. In this case, that's the movie theater. 
  • Dative: Wir sind im Kino. (We're at the movies/cinema.) We are already at the location and not traveling somewhere. 
  • Accusative: Legen Sie das Buch auf den Tisch. (Put/Lay the book on the table.) The motion is the placement of the book toward the table.
  • Dative: Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch. (The book's lying on the table.) The book is already at its destination and not moving.

Accusative Preposition Chart With Examples

Accusative Prepositions
PräpositionenBeispiele - Examples
durch: through, bydurch die Stadt through the city
durch den Wald through the forest
durch den Wind (caused) by the wind
entlang: along, downdie Straße entlang down the street
den Fluss entlang along the river
Gehen Sie diesen Weg entlang. Go down this path.
Note: Remember, entlang usually goes follows its object, as above.
für: forfür das Buch for the book
für ihn for him
für mich for me
gegen: against, forgegen alle Erwartungen against all expectations
gegen die Mauer against the wall
gegen Kopfschmerzen (medicine) for a headache
gegen mich against me
ohne: withoutohne den Wagen without the car
ohne ihn without him
ohne mich without me (count me out)
um: around, for, atum den See around the lake
um eine Stelle (apply) for a job
Er bewirbt sich um eine Stelle. He's applying for a position.
um zehn Uhr at 10 o'clock
Personal Pronouns
in the Accusative
ich: Imich: me
du: you (familiar)dich: you
er: he
sie: she
es: it
ihn: him
sie: her
es: it
wir: weuns: us
ihr: you (guys)euch: you (guys)
sie: theysie: them
Sie: you (formal)Sie: you (formal)
Da- Compounds
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 itdurch ihn/sie: through him/her
dafür: for itfür ihn/sie: for him/her
dagegen: against itgegen ihn/sie: against him/her
darum: for that reasonum ihn/sie: around him/her


Idioms and Other Considerations

A single German two-way preposition, such as in or auf, 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.

Examples: 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). Such expressions can be learned as vocabulary without worrying about the grammar involved.

Learn More

For more on the two-way prepositions, see the article The Two-Way Prepositions in German, which includes a self-scoring quiz on their use.