Mastering German Dative Prepositions: A Guide for English Speakers how to use dative prepositions in German

Mastering German Dative Prepositions: A Guide for English Speakers how to use dative prepositions in German

Get to know the use of dative prepositions in German is essential for mastering the language, especially for English speakers. This guide delves into the intricacies of prepositions with dative, explaining their importance and usage. Whether you're a beginner or looking to refine your German skills, this article will provide valuable insights into how their function within the language is, offering examples, explanations, and practical tips to enhance your comprehension and application of this grammatical aspect.

German Dative Prepositions Table

PrepositionExample sentence in GermanEnglish translation
mit (with)Wir fahren im Sommer mit unseren Freunden nach Italien.We are going to Italy with our friends this summer.
bei (at)Sie arbeitet bei einem bekannten Verlag.She works at a well-known publishing house.
von (from, of, by, about)Die Idee kommt von einem berühmten Wissenschaftler.The idea comes from a famous scientist.
seit (since, for)Sie wohnt schon seit Jahren in dieser Stadt.She has been living in this city for years.
zu (to)Ich gehe heute Abend zu einem Konzert.I'm going to a concert tonight.
außer (except for, apart, besides)Außer ein paar kleinen Fehlern war alles perfekt.Apart from a few small mistakes, everything was perfect.
nach (to, after, according to)Nach dem Essen fühle ich mich oft müde.I often feel tired after eating.
gegenüber (opposite, towards)Er verhält sich mir gegenüber immer sehr freundlich.He is always very friendly towards me.
aus (out of, from)Er machte aus alten Flaschen eine Lampe.He made a lamp out of old bottles.
ab (from, as of)Die Temperaturen sinken ab der Dämmerung deutlich.Temperatures drop significantly from dusk.

These are the most important prepositions that can be used with a dative. Theoretically, it's possible to employ the accusative case in a few instances with "ab", but in practice, this is rarely, if ever, done.

What are German Dative Prepositions?

They are prepositions that always require the dative case for the nouns or pronouns they accompany. Learning to use them correctly is crucial for making less mistakes with the cases in German.

List of Common Prepositions with a Dative

This section provides a comprehensive list of dative prepositions such as "mit" (with),“bei” (at),“von” (from, of, by, about),“seit” (since, for),“zu” (to), “außer” (except for, apart, besides),“nach” (to, after, according to),“gegenüber” (opposite, towards),“aus” (out, out of, from),“ab” (from). Each preposition will be accompanied by an explanation of its typical use and meaning in various contexts.


The preposition "mit" translates to "with" in English and is used to indicate accompaniment or participation. 


  • Das Kind fährt mit dem Fahrrad.  The child is riding a bicycle.
  • Ich gehe mit dem Kumpel in die Stadt. I go into town with my buddy.


  "Bei" translates to "at" and it is needed for expressing location, proximity, affiliation, or being in someone's presence. 


  • Bei der Arbeit lernte sie viele interessante Menschen kennen. She got to know many interesting people at work.


The English translation of "von" is "from", “of”, “by” or “about”  and it is needed to point out origin, or location. 


  • Das ist das Haus von meinem Onkel. This is the house of my uncle. 


"Seit"  means in English "since" or "for," denoting a time span that stretches from the past to the present. It specifies when a duration begins or emphasizes the continuous aspect of an action or state.


  • Ich lerne seit zwei Jahren Deutsch. I've been learning German for two years.


“Zu” equals the English “to” and is mostly needed for directions. 


  • Wir gehen zu dem Bahnhof. We are going to the station. 


The meaning of the word 'außer' in English is “except for”, “apart from”,  or “besides”, signifying exclusion or an exception within a broader context.


  • Außer dir möchte niemand den Film sehen. Nobody wants to see the movie except you.


"Nach" serves to convey various ideas such as direction, destination, time, and preference, with English equivalents like “to”, "after" or "according to" determined by the context.


  • Es gefällt Peter, nach Spanien zu ziehen. Peter is happy to move to Spain.
  • Er fragt sie, nach ihren Namen. He asks her for her name.


"Gegenüber" translates to "opposite", "across from" or “towards” in English and is needed to describe a position in terms of location or attitude.


  • Der Chef verhält sich gegenüber dem Kunden sehr freundlich. The boss is very friendly towards the customer.


The English meaning of the word "aus" is "from" or "out of" and it is serving to convey information about origin, material, or reason.


  • Der Student kommt aus einem kleinen Dorf. The student comes from a small village. 


The German preposition "ab" translates to “from”  in English and is primarily used to indicate the starting point of a time period or the beginning of a spatial distance. 


  • Ab einem Alter von 18 Jahren darf man wählen. You can vote from the age of 18.

How is the Topic the Dative Case in German related?

The dative case is one of the four cases in German. It is used to indicate the indirect object of a verb and is often required after certain prepositions. Understanding how the dative case works, including its article and pronoun declensions, is fundamental to mastering prepositions. 

How Do Prepositions in German Affect Sentence Structure?

Prepositions can have a an impact on the word order in German. In a main clause the preposition normally comes at the 3rd or at the 1st position. 


  • Ich fahre mit dem Bus in die Stadt. I take the bus into town.
  • Gegenüber der Bank ist eine Bäckerei. There is a bakery opposite the bank.

Dative Prepositions vs. Accusative Prepositions

Some prepositions always need an accusative, some always a dative and some can take both cases, depending on the context. They are called two-way prepositions. 

Prepositions: Tips and Tricks

Memorizing prepositions and their required cases can be challenging. It is important to remember that people use German prepositions a lot. Best you first focus on the most essential accusative and dative prepositions. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid with prepositions in German

Even advanced learners can make mistakes with prepositions. Most common mistakes are using a preposition in a wrong case or placing the preposition in the wrong position. 

Additional Resources for Mastering German Prepositions

For those seeking further study, it is recommended to also learn more about the cases and the Akkusativpräpositionen

Summary of Key Points

  • Dative prepositions require the noun or pronoun they accompany to be in the dative case.
  • The correct use of dative prepositions is crucial for constructing grammatically correct sentences in German.
  • Understanding the difference between dative and accusative prepositions is essential for accurate language use.


How to learn German prepositions most effectively? 

  • It is helpful to learn first all prepositions that can be used with dative and accusative. You can learn the cases in at the same time. That’s a good option which can help you remember both topics easier. After this you can focus on the German two-way prepositions

What are challenges for English native speakers?

  • Learning a new language can be difficult. The cases always play an important role for German grammar and another challenge is that there can be another use of prepositions compared to English. 

Are there any pattern why a dative must be used? 

  • Best you read this article about the cases in German where you can find a specific answer. 

Is there an effect of the subject or object? 

  • The subject still stands in the nominative, but the object the preposition is referring to must be used with dative. 

How can I learn more about this topic in a course or lesson? 

  • If you need help improving your German grammar, you can try a private online lesson. You can read more: here. 

Is there an impact on the adjective endings? 

  • Yes, they play a role for the cases and due to this also for the adjective endings. 

Which mistakes to avoid? 

Be careful that you do not mix up the different groups of prepositions. 

What are general tips to learn German grammar effectively? 





Article by Niko

Published 03 Feb 2024