Languages › German Learn All About Dual Prepositions in German Two-Way German Prepositions Can Be Dative or Accusative Share Flipboard Email Print Philipp Klinger / Getty Images German Grammar History & Culture Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Table of Contents Expand What Are the Dual Prepositions in German? How to Decide Whether A Dual Preposition Is Dative or Accusative? More About Using the Accusative Case More About Using the Dative Case Clever Ways to Remember German Prepositions "Arrow" verses "Blob" Dual Prepositions and Sample Sentences Test Yourself by Ingrid Bauer Ingrid Bauer, who is fluent in German, has been teaching and tutoring the German language since 1996. She has a teaching degree and an M.A. in German studies. Updated January 27, 2019 Most German prepositions are always followed by the same case, but dual prepositions (also called two-way or doubtful prepositions) are prepositions that can take either the accusative or dative case. What Are the Dual Prepositions in German? There are nine of these dual prepositions: anaufhinternebeninüberuntervorzwischen How to Decide Whether A Dual Preposition Is Dative or Accusative? When a dual preposition answers the question "where to?" (wohin?) or "what about?" (worüber?), it takes the accusative case. When answering the question "where" (wo?), it takes the dative case. In other words, the accusative prepositions typically refer to an action or movement to another place, whereas the dative prepositions refer to something that is not changing location. Think about the English phrases "he jumps into the water" versus "he is swimming in the water." The first answers a 'where to' question: Where is he jumping? Into the water. Or in German, in das Wasser or ins Wasser. He is changing location by moving from the land into the water. The second phrase represents a 'where' situation. Where is he swimming? In the water. In German, in dem Wasser or im Wasser. He is swimming inside the body of water and not moving in and out of that one location. To express the two different situations, English uses two different prepositions: in or into. To express the same idea, German uses one preposition — in — followed by either the accusative case (motion) or the dative (location). More About Using the Accusative Case If you want to convey a direction or destination in a sentence, you'll need to use the accusative. These sentences will always answer the question where to/wohin? For example: Die Katze springt auf den Stuhl. | The cat jumps on(to) the chair.Wohin springt die Katze? Auf den Stuhl. | Where is the cat jumping? On(to) the chair. The accusative case is also used when you can ask what about/worüber? For example: Sie diskutieren über den Film. | They are discussing the film.Worüber diskutieren sie? Über den Film. | What are they talking about? About the film. More About Using the Dative Case The dative case is used to indicate a stable position or situation. It answers the question where/wo? For example: Die Katze sitzt auf dem Stuhl. (The cat sits on the chair.) The dative is also used when there is no particular direction or goal intended. For example: Sie ist die ganze Zeit in der Stadt herumgefahren.| (She drove around town all day.) Remember that the above rules apply only to dual prepositions. Dative-only prepositions will always remain dative, even if the sentence indicates motion or direction. Likewise, accusative-only prepositions will always remain accusative, even if no motion is described in the sentence. Clever Ways to Remember German Prepositions "Arrow" verses "Blob" Some find it easier to remember the accusative-versus-dative rule by thinking of the "accusative" letter A on its side, representing an arrow ( > ) for motion in a specific direction, and the dative letter D on its side to represent a blob at rest. Of course, how you remember the difference matters little, as long as you have a clear understanding of when a two-way preposition uses the dative or accusative. Rhyme Time -- Use the following rhyme to help memorize dual-prepositions): An, auf, hinter, neben, in, über, unter, vor und zwischenstehen mit dem vierten Fall, wenn man fragen kann “wohin,”mit dem dritten steh’n sie so,daß man nur fragen kann “wo.” Translated: At, on, behind, near, in, over, under, before and between Go with the fourth case, when one asks "where to" The third case is different: With that, you can only ask where. Dual Prepositions and Sample Sentences The following chart lists an example of the dative and accusative cases for several dual prepositions. Preposition Definition Dative Example Accusative Example an at, by, on Der Lehrer steht an der Tafel.The teacher is standing at the blackboard. Der Student schreibt es an die Tafel. The student writes it on the board. auf on, onto Sie sitzt auf dem Stuhl.She is sitting on the chair. Er legt das Papier auf den Tisch.He is putting the paper on the table. hinter behind Das Kind steht hinter dem Baum.The child is standing behind the tree. Die Maus läuft hinter die Tür.The mouse runs behind the door. neben beside, near, next to Ich stehe neben der Wand. I stand next to the wall. Ich setzte mich neben ihn. I sat down next to him. in in, into, to Die Socken sind in der Schublade.The socks are in the drawer. Der Junge geht in die Schule.The boy goes to school. über over (above), about, across Das Bild hängt über dem Schreibtisch.The picture hangs over the desk. Öffne den Regenschirm über meinen Kopf. Open the umbrella over my head. unter under, below Die Frau schläft unter den Bäumen.The woman is sleeping under the trees. Der Hund läuft unter die Brücke.The dog runs under the bridge. zwischen between Der Katze stand zwischen mir und dem Stuhl.The cat is between me and the chair. Sie stellte die Katze zwischen mich und den Tisch.She put the cat between me and the table. Test Yourself Answer this question: Is in der Kirche dative or accusative? Wo or wohin? If you think that in der Kirche is dative and the phrase answers the question "wo?" then you are correct. In der Kirche means "in (inside) the church," while in die Kirche means "into the church" (wohin?). Now you see yet another reason why you need to know your German genders. Knowing that "church" is die Kirche, which changes to der Kirche in the dative case, is an essential element in using any preposition, but especially the two-way ones. Now we'll put the Kirche phrases into sentences to further illustrate the point: Akkusativ: Die Leute gehen in die Kirche. The people are going into the church. Dativ: Die Leute sitzen in der Kirche. The people are sitting in the church. Continue Reading Is There Action? Then There's Probably Accusative Can You Ask for Directions in German? Two-Way Prepositions in German What Are the Many Meanings of the German Verb 'Lassen'? A Look at More Vocabulary for Learning German How to Say the Months, Dates, Seasons, and Days in German The Meaning and Common Uses of the German Preposition "Bei" Learn to Say the Word "to" in German What's the Difference Between In, An and Auf in German? Practice German Reading with the Tale of Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten The German Word 'Aus' Can Be a Prefix or a Dative Preposition Common Prepositional Pitfalls in German (and How to Avoid Them) Five Peculiarities of the German Language Accusative and Dative Case Endings for German Adjectives Here's a Helpful Guide to Master Genitive Prepositions in German How Do You Arrange German Sentences When Using Accusative or Dative?