German Prepositions That Take the Accusative Case

There are two kinds of accusative prepositions

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany
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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

Types of Accusative Prepositions

There are two kinds of accusative prepositions:

  • Those that are always accusative and never anything else.
  • Certain two-way prepositions which are either accusative or dative, depending on how they are used.

The chart below outlines a complete list of each type.

Luckily, you'll need only to commit five accusative prepositions to memory. Further making these prepositions easier to learn by rote: 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 in bold. 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?

Accusative-only prepositions and their English translations:  

Deutsch Englisch
bis* until, to, by
durch through, by
entlang** along, down
für for
gegen against, for
ohne without
um around, 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).

**Note: The accusative preposition entlang usually goes after its object.

Two-Way Prepositions: Accusative/Dative

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.

Deutsch Englisch
an at, on, to
auf at, to, on, upon
hinter behind
in in, into
neben beside, near, next to
über about, above, across, over
unter under, among
vor in front of, before,
ago (time)
zwischen between

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. Motion toward something or to a specific location (wohin?) typically requires an accusative object. If there is no motion at all or random motion going nowhere in particular (wo?), then the object is usually dative. This rule applies only to the so-called 'two-way' or 'dual' German prepositions. For example, a dative-only preposition such as nach is always dative, whether motion takes place or not. 

Two sets of examples showing motion versus location:

  • Accusative: Wir gehen ins Kino. (We're going to the movies.) There is a movement toward a destination -- in this case, the movie theater. 
  • Dative: Wir sind im Kino. (We're at the movies/cinema.) We are already at the movie theater; not traveling toward it. 
  • 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

Präpositionen Beispiele - Examples
durch: through, by durch die Stadt through the city
durch den Wald through the forest
durch den Wind (caused) by the wind
entlang*: along, down die Straße entlang down the street
den Fluss entlang along the river
Gehen Sie diesen Weg entlang. Go down this path.
für: for für das Buch for the book
für ihn for him
für mich for me
gegen: against, for gegen alle Erwartungen against all expectations
gegen die Mauer against the wall
gegen Kopfschmerzen (medicine) for a headache
gegen mich against me
ohne: without ohne den Wagen without the car
ohne ihn without him
ohne mich without me (count me out)
um: around, for, at um 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

*Note: Remember, entlang usually goes follows its object, as above.

Personal Pronouns in the Accusative

NOMINATIVE ACCUSATIVE
ich: I mich: me
du: you (familiar) dich: you
er: he
sie: she
es: it
ihn: him
sie: her
es: it
wir: we uns: us
ihr: you (guys) euch: you (guys)
sie: they sie: 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.

THING PERSON
dadurch: through it, by it durch ihn/sie: through him/her
dafür: for it für ihn/sie: for him/her
dagegen: against it gegen ihn/sie: against him/her
darum: for that reason um 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.