How to Use German Dative Prepositions

Learn the two types of dative prepositions

Frankfurt, Germany train station
"Mit der Bahn fahren wir." (We're going by train.). Edwin Remsberg / Getty Images

If you want to speak German, you'll have to know your dative prepositions. Many dative prepositions are common vocabulary in German, such as nach (after, to), von (by, of) and mit (with). It's hard to speak without them. 

Simply put, dative prepositions are governed by the dative case. That is, they are followed by a noun or take an object in the dative case. 

In English, prepositions take the objective case (object of the preposition) and all prepositions take the same case.

In German, prepositions come in several "flavors," only one of which is dative.

The Two Kinds of Dative Prepositions

There are two kinds of dative prepositions:

1. Those that are always dative and never anything else.

2. Certain two-way or dual prepositions that can be either dative or accusative — depending on how they are used.

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

  • Mit der Bahn fahren wir. (We're going by train.)
  • Meiner Meinung nach ist es zu teuer. (In my opinion it's too expensive.)
  • Das Hotel ist dem Bahnhof gegenüber. (The hotel is across from the train station.)
  • Er arbeitet bei einer großen Firma. (He works at a big company.)
  • Wir verbringen eine Woche am See. (We're spending a week at the lake.)

Notice in the second and third examples above that the object comes before the preposition (with gegenüber this is optional.) Some German prepositions use this reverse word order, but the object must still be in the correct case.

List of Dative-Only Prepositions

Dative Prepositions
DeutschEnglisch
ausfrom, out of
außerexcept for, besides
beiat, near
gegenüberacross from, opposite
Gegenüber can go before or after its object.
mitwith, by
nachafter, to
seitsince (time), for
vonby, from
zuat, to
Note: The genitive prepositions statt (instead of), trotz (in spite of), während (during) and wegen (because of) are often used with the dative in spoken German, particularly in certain regions. If you want to blend in and not sound too stuffy, you can use them in the dative also.

Tips and Tricks for Dative Prepositions

The following is a quick overview on what to watch out for when forming sentences with dative prepositions.

Placement: You can choose to either place your prepositional phrase after the subject + verbal phrase (more common) or before, while keeping in mind the "time, manner, place" sentence structure guideline. That is the order you should place these parts of the sentence. For example: 

Ich fahre morgen früh mit meinem neuen Auto nach Köln. (I'm driving early tomorrow morning with my new car to Cologne.)

Cases: Change word endings accordingly. Check your definite articles, pronouns and adjectives. In a dative prepositional phrase this means:

Definite articles:

  • der - dem
  • die - der
  • das - dem
  • die (plural) - den

Pronouns:

  • ich - mir
  • du - dir
  • er - ihm
  • sie - ihr
  • es - ihr
  • wir - uns
  • ihr - euch
  • sie - ihnen

Dative Prepositional Contractions

The following dative prepositional contractions are common.

  • zur (zu+ der)
  • zum (zu + dem)
  • vom (von + dem)
  • beim (bei + dem)

For example: Deine Eltern kommen heute zum Abendessen vorbei. (Your parents are coming over for dinner today.)

For (dinner), in this case, is expressed with zu plus dem, or zum (Abendessen). Wondering why we used zu? See the Differences Between For and Für.