Prepositions in German (1) Two-Way Prepositions
Unlike other German language teachers, I usually teach the cases separately from prepositions to make sure that my students understand what the cases are doing in a German sentence. In my experience, when students learn the two topics together, they do not fully appreciate why the dative case is used as both, an indirect object as in, "Ich schenke der Frau einen Blumenstrauß" as well as a spatial preposition as in "Die Frau sitzt im Kino". So my advice would be that you learn about the four German cases first before you continue with my explanation of prepositions.
Prepositions enforce their own rules and take a particular case. If you have a preposition before a noun, this noun no longer performs the function of a direct or indirect object but its case is determined by the preposition. In this part of my four blog posts on prepositions, I explain two-way prepositions, which in German are called "Wechselpräpositionen", as they change their case depending on whether the verb implies a change of location (Akkusativ) or not (Dativ). So it's important to focus on the verb. The most common verbs we use with this set of prepositions are:
AKK only vs. DAT only
stellen (to put or place) vs. stehen (literally, to stand)
(sich) legen (to lay) vs. liegen (to lie)
(sich) setzen (to sit down) vs. sitzen (to sit, be seated)
Keeping your eyes on the verbs, let's now look at the nine two-way prepositions with some examples.
Two of the above German prepositions- "in" and "an"- are particularly important to remember not only as spatial but also as temporal prepositions.
Learn about accusative only prepositions, dative only prepositions, and prepositions that go with the genitive case in German in our next three posts on the topic.
You might also be interested in my Ultimate Guide to Learning German. Check it out to learn how to learn German fast.
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