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The Difference Between "Von" and "Ab" in German

Learners often confuse the dative prepositions "von" and "ab" in German. In this blog post, I'll explain the difference between them, explore their underlying grammar, provide examples, and addressing exceptions.


How to use ab and von in German
How to use ab and von in German

How to use ab and von in German

Even though both ab and von are dative prepositions in German and they could be translated as “from” into English, an and von are used in different contexts.


  1. "Von" vs. "Ab": Grammar and Usage

  • "Von" indicates origin, possession, or the starting point of a period of time or a movement where the end point is indicated with "bis" for the time and "nach" for a location.

  • Examples: Ich komme von der Arbeit. (I am coming from work.)

  • Ich arbeite normalerweise von 8 bis 21 Uhr (I normally work from 8am to 9pm.)

  • Sie fährt von London nach Manchester (She is travelling from London to Manchester.)


  • "Ab" denotes the starting point of an action, indicating a time, place, or event from which something begins without a specified end point. The precise translation is usually “as of” or “from x onwards”

  • Example: Die Northern Line ist ab April geschlossen. (The Northern line is closed as of April.)

  • Ab September ist sie in Ruhestand. (From September onwards, she is retired.)

  • Der Bus fährt ab dem Bahnhof. (The bus departs from the train station.)


2. Other Examples of "Von" and "Ab" in Context

  • "Von" examples: a. Das Buch ist von Goethe. (The book is by Goethe.) b. Der Flug geht von Frankfurt. (The flight departs from Frankfurt.)

  • "Ab" examples: a. Ab morgen beginnt der Kurs. (The course starts from tomorrow.) b. Der Zug fährt ab 9 Uhr. (The train leaves from 9 o'clock.)


3. Exceptions and Special Cases

  • "Von" can also express separation or removal. Example: Er trennte sich von seiner Freundin. (He broke up with his girlfriend.)

  • "Ab" can indicate a change or transition. Example: Ab jetzt wird alles anders sein. (From now on, everything will be different.)


4. Additional Tips and Common Mistakes

  • Be attentive to the context and intended meaning when choosing between "von" and "ab."

  • Recognise that prepositions in German can have multiple meanings and applications.

  • Practice using "von" and "ab" in various scenarios to reinforce understanding and fluency.


By understanding the distinctions between "von" and "ab" and familiarising oneself with their usage in different contexts, learners can enhance their command of German prepositions. Whether indicating origin or marking the starting point of an action, "von" and "ab" play pivotal roles in German communication. Through consistent practice and exposure to examples, mastering the nuances of these prepositions will contribute to greater proficiency and confidence in the language. Keep exploring and integrating "von" and "ab" into your language repertoire to navigate German expression with precision and clarity.


In related posts you can learn about the difference between aus and von, seit and vor in German, vor and aus, bei vs. mit, nach vs. zu. And if you found this blog post helpful, please leave me a like or comment as it helps other German learners to find it. Vielen Dank!



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