Translating from the English “near”, English native speakers often confuse the difference between “neben” and “in der Nähe von” in German- and it’s easy to see why. In this blog post, I will explain the difference and give some advice on how to avoid the confusion moving forward.
“Neben” is a so-called two way or dual preposition that either goes with the accusative or the dative case, depending on whether the verb implies a change of location (accusative) or not (dative). It’s translation into English is “next to”. “In der Nähe von”, on the other hand, is a phrase that combines the two-way preposition in with the dative preposition “von”. "In" itself is followed by the dative of the noun "die Nähe" (the vicinity) because there is no change of location. So the phrases uses the dative case twice but for different reasons. It translates as “near” or "in the vicinity" into English. Let’s look at some examples.
Mein Büro liegt neben der U-Bahn-Station.
(My office is next to the underground station)
Mein Büro liegt in der Nähe von der U-Bahn-Station. Sie ist 5 Minuten zu Fuß entfernt.
(My office is near the underground station. It’s 5 minutes on foot).
Die U-Bahn-Station liegt neben dem Einkaufszentrum.
(The underground station is next to the shopping centre)
Das Einkaufszentrum ist in der Nähe von dem Fluss.
(The shopping centre is near the river)
"Neben" should be taken literally as location A is right next to B, whereas "in der Nähe von" is a description of the surrounding area. I hope this makes a difference between them a bit clearer.
On our German language blog "Auf Deutsch, bitte!", you'll find explanations of all prepositions and other German grammar topics, such as the four cases in German, adjective declensions, the difference between "sein" and "ihr", "nach", nachdem" and "danach", "denn" vs. "dann", "brauchen" vs. "müssen", but you will also learn phrases such as how to say "Merry Christmas" in German, so check out our posts.