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Accusative Prepositions in German. On How To Use Durch, Ohne, Gegen, Für, Um

Updated: Dec 31, 2023

Navigating the intricacies of German grammar is a rewarding journey, and one crucial aspect is understanding accusative prepositions. In this blog post, we'll unravel the mysteries of accusative prepositions, explore their usage, and equip you with the knowledge to wield them confidently in your German language endeavours.

German students usually get introduced to the dual prepositions in German first before they learn about prepositions that only take the accusative case.

When to Use Accusative Prepositions

Accusative prepositions are employed when there is direct action towards an object or when indicating a specific direction.

  1. Direction of Motion:

  • Use accusative prepositions to denote movement or direction, especially when the action is toward a specific destination.

  1. Time Duration:

  • Indicate the duration of an action or event using accusative prepositions, such as "durch" (through) or "für" (for).

  1. Specific Destinations:

  • When referring to a specific location or destination, accusative prepositions clarify the target of the action.

The five main prepositions in this category, which my German students remember by the acronym "DOGFU", are:

durch (through, by virtue of)

Ich gehe durch die Kölner Innenstadt. (I walk through Cologne's city centre) Durch den Kölner Dom kommen viele Touristen in die Stadt. (Many tourists come into the city through the Cologne Cathedral)

ohne (without)

Ohne mein Handy gehe ich nicht aus dem Haus. (I don't leave the house without my mobile phone)

gegen (against, around in the temporal sense)

Sie ist gegen die Idee. (She is against the idea) Sollen wir uns gegen 12 Uhr treffen? (Should we meet around 12?)

für (for)

Ich habe eine Überraschung für dich. (I have a surprise for you)

um (at in the temporal and around in the spatial sense)

Ich beginne um 8 Uhr mit der Arbeit. (I start work at 8 o' clock) Er joggt täglich um den See (herum). (He is jogging around the lake every day)

Confusingly for English native speakers, the German preposition "gegen" is also used to combat illnesses, e.g. Sie nimmt Antibiotika gegen Husten (She is taking antibiotics for cough). So, even though some of the accusative prepositions might puzzle you initially, the good news is that, unlike the two-way prepositions, there is no rule to remember here. You just need to learn that these prepositions only take the accusative case.

However, "ohne" and "um" can also be used as subordinate clause conjunctions so be careful not to confuse the two different ways of using them.

Other prepositions in the category of accusative prepositions are

bis (until, to) which never takes an article, and hence I don't ask my students to learn it as an accusative preposition

e.g. Ich arbeite oft bis 21 Uhr.

Er fuhr bis Frankfurt mit seinem Auto, dann nahm er den Zug.

entlang (along) which is a very confusing preposition as it can be put before or after the noun, and can take the accusative (for specific routes), dative (for fenced-off areas), and even the genitive case (and is then synonymous with "längs")

e.g. Das Schiff fährt den Rhein entlang.

An der Mauer entlang wachsen viele Pflanzen.

Entlang des Flusses befinden sich viele Hausboote.

wider (synonymous with "gegen") in some fixed expressions:

e.g. Sie hat wider Willen ihre Hausaufgaben gemacht.

Wider Erwarten hat er die Stelle bekommen.

Common Pitfalls and Tips

Mastering accusative prepositions can be challenging, but awareness of common pitfalls can smooth the learning curve:

  1. Accusative Pronouns:

  • When using pronouns, remember that accusative pronouns replace the direct object in a sentence.

  1. Memorization and Practice:

  • Regularly practice using accusative prepositions in context. Create sentences or engage in conversations to reinforce your understanding.

  1. Context Matters:

  • Pay attention to the context of a sentence. Accusative prepositions are often determined by the nature of the action being described.

Congratulations! You've taken a significant step in mastering German grammar by delving into accusative prepositions. Embrace the learning process, practice regularly, and soon you'll wield these linguistic tools with confidence. Whether you're navigating a bustling city or discussing future plans, accusative prepositions will guide you through the German language. You might also want to check out our posts on dative prepositions in German and genitive prepositions in German to progress further on your language-learning journey!

Viel Erfolg (Good luck)!



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