Declension and differentiation of German Prepositions

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Certain prepositions can blend into the definite articles to form an abbreviation of such preposition-article format. It is not compulsory to decline prepositions. Doing this only shows one’s skills and command of deutsch. As a matter of fact, sometimes it may even sound awkward to use certain declension but that is not to say that it is wrong. Study the pattern shown below:

Preposition & definite articles

  • für + das
  • um + das
  • hinter + das
  • in + das
  • an + das
  • zwischen + das
  • in + dem
  • zu + der
  • zu + dem
  • an + am
  • von + dem

Declined form

  • fürs
  • ums
  • hinters
  • ins
  • ans
  • zwischens
  • im
  • zur
  • zum
  • am
  • vom


  • The book is on the table.—— das Buch ist am Tisch.
  • They are coming back from church.—— sie sind von der Kirche zurückgekommen.
  • The dog is behind the shelf.—— der Hund ist hinters Regal.

*Note: The declined prepositions should not always be translated literally in English. What this means is that the literal meaning of the declension is not always translated. For example “am” literally means “on the” or “at the” can be used to mean just “on” and “at” in English translations since German uses the declined form always regardless of whether the definite article was intended to be used. See illustrations below;

  • Ich gehe zur Kirche ** not ich gehe zu Kirche .——can either mean “I am going to church” or “I am going to the church” (depending on whether or not you want to be specific about the church).
  • Sie geht zur Schule.—— she is going to school.
  • Wir kommen am Montag.—— we are Coming on Monday.

Differentiation and Comparison of German Prepositions

Auf & An as “on”—; when it involves an object resting on a horizontal surface, “auf” is used but when it involves the object hanging on a vertical surface, then “an” is used. For example:

  • The book 📕 is on the table.—— das Buch ist auf dem Tisch.
  • The clock is hanging on the wall.—— die Glocke hängt an der Wand.

Auf & In can be used as “In”—; when referring to an enclosed place with possible four walls such as a room, restaurant, garden, compound, supermarket etc., “in” is used. But when it involves a language or an open public place with several buildings such as a street, market etc. “auf” is used.

  • I am in the street.—— ich bin auf der Straße.
  • Jane is in the supermarket.—— Jane ist im Supermarkt.
  • John is in the market.—— John is auf dem Markt.

Zu, Nach & In when used as “to”—; where “zu” is used only with all nouns that use articles. “Nach” on the other hand is only used with nouns that don’t require articles such as countries with neuter gender, names of places and cities. “In” is used with countries that have genders and when the intention is to be within an enclosed place with four walls e.g hospital, restaurant e.t.c.

  • I am going to school.—— ich gehe zur Schule.
  • We are traveling to France.—— wir fliegen nach Frankreich.
  • He is flying to turkey.—— Er fliegst in die Türkei. —And not: er fliegt zur Türkei.

Von, Ab & Aus as “from”—; “von” is used when referring to a start point (location). “Ab” on the other hand is used in terms of duration and timing while “aus” is used when talking about one’s origin. For example;

  • I just came from the central train station.—— ich bin gerade vom Bahnhof gekommen.
  • I am not working anymore from Monday.—— ich arbeite ab Montag nicht mehr.

Mit & Bei as “with”—; mit is used generally as “with” (compliment) or when movement is intended. While “bei” is used when it involves positioning. For example;

  • We are going with you.—— wir gehen mit dir.
  • she ordered a plate of rice with chicken.—— sie hat einen Teller Reis mit Hähnchen bestellt.

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