Locative Prepositions

What are Locative Prepositions?

Locative prepositions are related to a location or movement.

They can be used to describe the following situations:

They are normally used with the Dative or Accusative case.

Prepositions Answering the Question: Wo?

Almost all locative prepositions can be used to answer the question „Wo?“. When answering „Wo?“, they ALWAYS require the dative case.

lokale Präpositionen

„bei” vs. „an”

„Bei“ and „An“ have similar meanings, but are used in different situations. „Bei“ can always be used, while „an“ can't be used with people.

  • „Ich bin bei Anna.“ ⇒ I'm at Anna's house / close to Anna.
  • „Ich bin an/bei der Bushaltestelle.“ ⇒  I am close to the bus stop.

„Bei“ always requires the dative case. All other prepositions listed here can also answer the question „Wohin?” (and would then require the accusative case). More info about prepositions that can take both the accusative or dative case is in my lesson on two-case prepositions.

Prepositions Answering the Question: Woher?

The prepositions „aus“ and „von“ express coming from a specific direction. They answer the question: „Woher?“

Both prepositions use dative, ALWAYS!

Preposition „aus”

„Aus“ describes leaving something or somewhere physically

That means the subject has to be inside something (i.e. a building) and then leave it. It's also used with countries, cities, and regions without articles.

präposition aus

Preposition „von“

„Von“ describes coming from a specific point or area.

You don't necessarily have to have been "inside" the place:

  • „Ich komme vom Bahnhof.“ (Around the station, but maybe not the actual building)

If you can not physically leave something, you have to use "von":

  • „Ich komme vom Einkaufen.“
    You can't leave „Einkaufen“ ⇒ „von“

Prepositions Answering the Question: Wohin?

All prepositions that can be used to answer „Wo?“ can be used to answer „Wohin?“ except for „bei“. Instead of „bei“ we use „zu“ or „nach“.

When describing the movement, use the same preposition that’s used to describe the ending position.

  • „Ich gehe auf die Kiste.“

Prepositions that describe both the location and movement are called Two-Case Prepositions (Wechselpräpositionen).

Two-Case Prepositions

It works the same with the other so-called Two-case Prepositions (auf, über, unter, vor, hinter, in, neben, an, and zwischen)

Wechselpräpositionen Fälle

„in“ vs. „zu”

„In“ and „zu“ are the opposite of „aus“ and „von“:

in oder zu Präpositionen

„zu“ vs. „nach“

„zu“ and „nach“ mean the same thing. You go to somebody or something.

„Nach“ is used for continents, countries, cities, and regions. For everything else we use „zu“.

  • „Ich gehe nach Deutschland.“
  • „Ich fliege nach Amerika.“
  • „Ich fahre nach Berlin.“
  • „Ich fahre nach Sachsen.“ 

       BUT:  „Ich fahre zu meiner Oma.“

Exception for „nach“: If the country or region requires an article (like Switzerland: „die Schweiz“) we use „in“ instead of „nach“:

  • „Ich fahre nach Deutschland.“        BUT:  „Ich fahre in die Schweiz.“
  • „Ich fliege nach Kalifornien.“                          „Ich fliege in die Toskana.“

Additional Locative Prepositions

Preposition „durch“

The preposition „durch“ describes going through something.

  • Ich fahre durch den Tunnel.
  • Ich springe durch den Reifen.“
  • Der Mann geht durch die Tür.“
  • Wir fliegen durch einen Sturm.“
Präposition durch

„Durch“ is always followed by a noun in the accusative case.

Preposition „um ... herum”

The preposition „um … herum“ describes going around something.

  • Ich gehe um den Baum herum.“
  • Ich fahre um das Schild herum.“
  • Der Mann geht um den Zaun herum.“
  • Wir wandern um den Berg herum.“
Um herum Präposition

The preposition „um … herum“ is a two-part preposition. The noun goes between the two parts. If it’s clear from the context what’s happening, the „herum“ can be left out.

The preposition „um“ is always followed by a noun in the accusative case.

Preposition „gegenüber”

The preposition „gegenüber“ describes being on the other side of the street.

  • Ich bin gegenüber der Bank.“ 

→ I am on the side of the street opposite the bank.

  • Ich stehe gegenüber der Post.“

→ I am in front of the post office, but on the other side of the street.

„Gegenüber“ is always followed by a noun in the Dative case.

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