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German Verb + Preposition, Case

When i was studying german i came across those famous verb+preposition expressions. For example "verbinden mit", "verzichten auf", "arbeiten an". But it's okey to learn all of these. What is however complicated is all of the mess with the cases.

It's pretty easy when we just need to use für, gegen, bei (...) because they are all case-fixed. But what about an/in/über? Is there any intuition behind it? How can i possibly know whether i should put dativ or akkusativ after for example "arbeiten an" or "zweifeln an"?

April 12, 2018



The case primarily depends on how the verb+preposition affects the object:

  • indirect object means Dative
  • direct object means Accusative

Each case is connected to a "W" question in German which gives you information about the case:

  • Wer means Nominative (1st case)
  • Wessen means Genitive (2nd case)
  • Wem means Dative (3rd case)
  • Wen means Accusative (4th case)



  • an etwas arbeiten - An wem oder was arbeite ich? - Dative - indirect object
  • etwas bearbeiten - Wen oder was bearbeite ich? - Accusative - direct object


  • an etwas zweifeln - An wem oder was zweifle ich? - Dative - indirect object
  • etwas anzweifeln - Wen oder was zweifle ich an? - Accusative - direct object

You can find some verbs with prepositions and case here: https://www.grammatiktraining.de/verbenmitpr/verben-mit-praepositionen-liste.html


This notion of direct and indirect objects seems reasonable. Thanks for the hint :)


I feel your pain ;-) Unfortunately, you'll need to learn which preposition takes which case. There are Dativ prepositions (e.g. ab, aus, nach, mit, bei, seit, von, zu) and Akkusativ prepositions (e.g. bis, durch, für, gegen, ohne). There are also prepositions that can take either Dativ or Akkusativ (e.g. an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen). The key to the latter ones is the verb. Do you have a static verb that does not express any movement the verb will take the Dativ. If you have a verb that expresses movement, it will take the Akkusativ. Let me give you an example: The picture is hanging on the wall - Das Bild hängt an der Wand (Dativ) He is knocking on the wall - Er klopft an die Wand (Akkusativ) Hope that helped a little ;-)


To know what case to use with expressions like "arbeiten an", you need a good dictionary. I recommend Langenscheidts Grosswoerterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache.


the case you need to use is still determined by the verb. Both "arbeiten an" and "zweifeln an" are only used with a Dativ object. Some verbs can have multiple objects, but even then, the function of each object determines the case you need to use.

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