Dative Case Prepositions in German
In this post you will learn how to use the dative case prepositions in German including a song to help you remember them, a ton of example sentences and the subtle difference between certain prepositions. This video will help you understand when to use each of the dative case prepositions in German. You will also learn the difference between aus vs von, zu vs nach, and bei vs mit. This lesson has it all. If you want to learn about dative case prepositions in German, this lesson should be your first stop.
3 Minuten Deutsch: Dative Prepositions Lesson
If you are looking for just the bare essential information about the dative prepositions in German, you can simply watch this video. It is pretty much like a TL;DR version of this lesson. If you are ready for the deep dive and you really want to understand these prepositions and how to use them, feel free to skip the 3 Minuten Deutsch version.
What are the Dative Prepositions in German?
As I have mentioned at the beginning of the previous 2 videos about the dative case in German, the dative case is also used with certain prepositions. Today we are focusing on the prepositions that always require the dative case, conveniently called “dative prepositions”. If you are looking for information about the two-way prepositions or Wechselpräpositionen, click here.
Those are the prepositions used with the dative case. If you need a way to remember them, simply sing them in alphabetical order to the tune of “An der schönen blauen Donau”. You can listen to me sing the dative prepositions in the video below.
aus – out of, from
“aus” means out of or from. It is used to show that something was in something and is now no longer. This is different from “von”, which is also on our list for today and will be explained in more detail in a bit. For now, I’ll show you a few examples of how to use “aus”.
Ich komme aus den USA.
I am from the USA.
(I come from the USA.)
Once I was in the USA. That is my place of origin. Now I am expressing that I came out of that place with the preposition “aus”. And you cannot say this while being in the US, because then you would say “Ich bin von hier.” (I am from here.), as you are still currently there. No exiting has occurred.
Meine Oma holt mir Schokolade aus der Schublade.
My grandma gets me chocolate from the drawer.
The chocolate was in the drawer and now it is outside of it. Therefore we use “aus”.
Wir fahren heute aus der Stadt.
We are driving out of town today.
We are currently in the city and will soon be going away from there. Therefore we used “aus”.
Wann kommst du aus der Schule?
When do you get out of school?
You were in school. We are asking about when you will leave, so we used “aus”.
Additional Examples of “aus”
Er nimmt den Kuli aus seiner Tasche.
He is taking the pen out of his bag.
Sie klaut meine Schokolade aus meiner Pralinenschachtel.
She is stealing chocolate from my chocolate box.
Um 6 Uhr morgens gehe ich aus dem Haus.
At 6 AM I go out of the house.
von – from
“von” can also be translated as “from” but unlike “aus” it is not used for things that were once inside something, but rather just that it is in a different place than before. It is “from there”. “Von” points at the position where something was. “Zu” is the opposite pointing at the position where something will be.
Ich komme vom Bäcker.
I am coming from the bakery.
“von” points at the bakery from where “ich” is coming. Also it is important to note that “vom” is sort of a contraction of “von dem”, which means if you are trying to use adjectives after that, you use the ones that normally are behind definite articles.
Ich gehe zum Bäcker.
I am going to the bakery.
“zu” points at the bakery to where “ich” is going. Again there is a contraction of “zu” and “dem” in this sentence.
aus vs von
Morgen soll ich einen Brief von meiner Brieffreundin bekommen.
I am supposed to get a letter from my penpal tomorrow.
If I used “aus” in this sentence instead of “von”, It would mean that the letter was once inside of your penpal. Since that is not what is meant here, I used “von”.
Wir fahren von unserem Haus zu deinem Haus.
We are driving from our house to your house.
This sentence is a bit more difficult for some to understand why we use “von” instead of “aus”. The simplest way for me to explain it is that when we went from inside of the house to outside of the house, we weren’t driving. The part explained in this sentence is the driving from the outside of one house to the outside of another. This means you can use them both in the same sentence to give more depth to the sentence.
Wir gehen aus dem Haus und fahren von unserem Haus zu deinem Haus.
We are walking out of the house and driving from our house to your house.
“von” meaning “of”
Geben Sie mir bitte ein Stück von dem Kuchen!
Give me a piece from/of the cake.
This sentence is actually a good transition example from the translation “from” to the other translation for “von”, “of”. It could be translated as a piece from the cake or a piece of the cake.
That’s because the word “von” sometimes carries with it the idea of being a part of the whole or it can be used to show possession. This again goes back to the fact that it points where something was. It is from that or of that. For example:
Die folgenden Sätze sind Beispiele von dem deutschen Wort “von”.
The following sentences are examples of the German word “von”.
Herr Antrim erzählt von einem Drachen mit roten Flügeln.
Herr Antrim tells of a dragon with red wings.
Das ist das T-Shirt von meiner Tochter.
This is the t-shirt of my daughter.
Additional Examples of “von”
There are also a plethora of phrases in German, which use the preposition “von”. In those sentences, the translation varies from the two options I have given you so far. This is when it is most helpful to use the definition I first saw on the “German is Easy” blog at yourdailygerman.com. “von” shows a point of origin without expressing any form of “exiting”. I like this definition, as it shows a more precise definition that doesn’t leave any ambiguity.
Ich bekomme fast nie Post von meinen Eltern.
I almost never get any mail from my parents.
Mein Flug fliegt von Berlin nach Chicago.
My flight is flying from Berlin to Chicago.
Was willst du von dem Weihnachtsmann?
What do you want from Santa Claus?
außer – except, besides, in addition to
“außer” translates as either “except” or “besides”. I sometimes use the translation “in addition to”. It isn’t nearly as common as “aus” and “von”, but it is a dative preposition, so here it is in some examples.
Außer meinem Vater kommt auch noch meine Mutter zum Spiel.
Besides (In addition to) my father, my mother is also coming to the game.
Ich esse mein ganzes Mittagessen außer diesem Spargel.
I am eating my entire lunch except this asparagus.
Außer Jim hat er keine Freunde mehr.
Besides Jim, he has no more friends.
Wir erlauben hier keine Tiere außer meinem Hund.
We don’t allow any animals here except my dog.
bei – at, near, with
“bei” is a bit difficult for some German learners, as it translates as a bunch of words that already have other prepositions assigned to them. Some translate it as “with”, but “mit” exists. Some translate it as “near”, but the word “nah” also exists. I generally translate it as “at”, but that has a bunch of issues, too. The bottom line is that “bei” shows a static location. You can use it with stores, work, people’s houses (not your own) and parties just to name a few. Here are a few examples to help you get the idea.
Ich kaufe Lebensmittel bei Aldi.
I am buying groceries at Aldi.
Let me get something off of my chest.
For the record, it is NOT Aldi’s. Aldi is not a dude’s name unlike Kohl’s, McDonald’s and other stores, restaurants and companies that were derived from people’s names. Aldi is short for Albrecht (a family name) Diskont (word for discount). The family’s last name is not “Diskont”, so please for the love of god stop saying “Aldi’s”. End rant.
Using “bei” with Websites
You can also use “bei” with online places and sources of information. For example:
Mein Vater bekommt all seine Nachrichten bei Fox News.
My father gets all of his news on/at/from Fox News.
Herr Antrim hat eine Fan-Seite bei Facebook.
Herr Antrim has a fan page on Facebook.
Additional Examples with “bei”
Es gibt heute Abend eine Party bei meinem Freund Paul.
There is a party at my friend Paul’s house this evening.
Mein Bruder ist gerade bei der Arbeit und kann nicht ans Handy gehen.
My brother is currently at work and can’t answer his phone (cell phone).
Ich übernachte bei einem Freund von mir.
I am staying the night at a friend’s house.
Er arbeitet bei einer großen Firma.
He works at a large company.
Mein Fahrrad steht bei dem Haus.
My bicycle stands by the house.
mit – with
“mit” is an easy one. It means “with” and is used exactly the same. As I mentioned before, the most difficult part of this preposition is deciding whether to use “bei” or “mit” when you want to say “with” in English. The easy answer is that “mit” does not describe a location, but rather a connection, whereas “bei” always shows a location. For example:
mit vs bei
Ich wohne mit meinem Bruder.
I live with my brother.
(I live in the same place as my brother.)
Ich wohne bei meinem Bruder.
I live with my brother.
(I live at my brother’s house.)
The sentence with “mit” indicates that both are equal, i.e. the home belongs to both. The other one indicates that the brother is either the tenant or owns the home, so he sets the rules.
Er ist fertig mit seiner Arbeit.
He is finished with his work.
Er ist bei der Arbeit.
He is at work.
Wir spielen Schach mit unseren Kindern.
We play chess with our children.
Wir spielen Schach bei unseren Kindern.
We play chess at our children’s house.
Additional Examples with “mit”
Warum isst du Pizza mit einer Gabel?
Why do you eat pizza with a fork?
Du sollst nicht mit den Fremden gehen.
You shouldn’t go with the strangers.
Ich lese jeden Tag ein Buch mit meinem Sohn.
I read a book every day with my son.
zu – at, to
“zu” can mean “at”. The only instance when it translates as “at”, however, is “zu Hause” (at home).
Ich bin die nächsten zwei Wochen zu Hause.
I am at home for the next two weeks.
“zu” meaning “to”
In all other instances, the translation is “to”. Generally speaking, this is used to express going in the direction of something. There are other prepositions that do this, however, so it is important to remember that you use “zu” with places that you can also use “von” when leaving. If you used the preposition “in” when you entered, you use “aus” when you exit. If you used “zu” when going there, you use “von” when leaving. For example:
Ich fahre zur Bank.
I am driving to the bank.
Ich komme von der Bank zurück nach Hause.
I am coming home from the bank.
Mein Bruder geht zu einem Freund.
My brother is going to a friend’s house.
Mein Bruder kommt bald von seinem Freund nach Hause.
My brother will soon return from his friend’s house.
Additional Examples of “zu”
Ich gehe jetzt zur Post.
I am going to the post office now.
Wann gehst du zur Bank?
When are you going to the bank?
Fühl dich wie zu Hause.
Make yourself at home.
nach – to
“nach” can also mean “to”. It is used with cities, villages, states, countries and directions on a compass.
Im Sommer möchte ich nach Heidelberg fliegen.
In the summer I would like to fly to Heidelberg.
Meine Eltern fahren nach Deutschland.
My parents are driving to Germany.
Gehen Sie nach Norden bis Sie das Restaurant finden.
Go north until you find the restaurant.
Ein Freund von mir reist nach Deutschland.
A friend of mine is traveling to Germany.
Fährst du bald nach Chicago?
Are you driving to Chicago soon?
Warum gehen sie so früh nach Hause?
Why are they going home so early?
“nach” meaning “after”
You can also use “nach” to express “after”, as with time or an event.
Nach 3 Uhr arbeite ich nicht mehr.
After 3 o’clock, I don’t work anymore.
Nach dem Film gehen wir essen.
After the film we are going out to eat.
seit – since
“seit” is very similar, but translates as “since”. The main difference is that “nach” indicates that some event or action occurred after another, but “seit” indicates that whatever the second action is continued for some time after that.
Seit meiner Geburt heiße ich Herr Antrim.
Since my birth I have been called Herr Antrim.
Seit dem Film schlafen die Kinder.
The children have been sleeping since the film.
Seit den 90ern (Neunzigern) gibt es keine gute Musik mehr.
There hasn’t been any good music since the 90s.
Seit einem Jahr schwimme ich jeden Tag.
I have been swimming every day for a year
Seit meinem dreißigsten Geburtstag fühle ich mich jeden Tag alt.
Since my 30th birthday, I feel old every day.
gegenüber – across from
This preposition isn’t used all that often, because its usage is so specific. While it can be used to mean “with respect to”, that type of construction is a little more complicated. It is also a bit strange, because it can sometimes be used behind its object instead of in front of it like most prepositions.
Meine Freundin steht gegenüber dem Rathaus.
My girl friend is standing across from the city hall.
Das Bild hängt an der Wand der Tür gegenüber.
The picture is hanging on the wall across from the door.
Dative Prepositions Practice Worksheet
If you clicked the link at the top of this post to download a worksheet with answer key to go with this lesson, you can follow along with this video to go through the worksheet and see if you got the correct answers.
Additional Dative Case Lessons
That’s the last one for my list for today. There are other prepositions which require the dative case, but they only do so sometimes. They are called two-way prepositions or Wechselpräpositionen. Click here to learn all about them.
Indirect Objects with the Dative Case
Personal Pronouns of the Dative Case
Prepositions Used with the Dative Case
Dative Prepositions and Their Common Verb Partners
Wechselpräpositionen and Their Common Verb Partners with the Dative Case
Special Dative Phrases
Accusative Case Master Class
Dative Case Master Class