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Grammar: The Dutch Prepositions


  1. Prepositions: introduction
  2. Short overview of the most important prepositions
  3. Prepositions of place
  4. Prepositions of movement
  5. Prepositions of time

1. Prepositions: introduction

Prepositions are short words which indicate a relation between different words in a sentence. This can be a relation of place (Where?), of direction (Where to?) and of time (When?)

Examples of prepositions:

  1. Where? – Het glas staat op de tafel). = The glass is on the table.
  2. Where to? – Zij fietsten van Parijs naar Lyon. = They cycled from Paris to Lyon.
  3. When? – De school opent om 9 uur ‘s morgens. = The school opens at 9 am.

Unfortunately, learning prepositions is never an easy task. However, learning prepositions by means of an example sentence usually helps.

2. Short overview of the most important prepositions

Source: Grammaticawijzer ‘Dutch Grammar at a Glance’, IntertaaL.

3. Prepositions of place

On this image you can see a part of the Duolingo world. You can say something about the places of certain things, building, Duo and even the mountains. For example:

  • The Eiffeltower is in the valley – De Eiffeltoren staat in de vallei.
  • The Eiffeltower is next to the river – De Eiffeltoren staat naast de rivier.
  • The Atomium is between the bench and the mountain – Het Atomium staat tussen het bankje en de berg (in).
  • Duo the owl is opposite the Antomium – Duo de uil staat tegenover het Antomium.
  • The Brandenburger Tor is at the foot of the mountain – De Brandenburger Tor staat aan de voet van de berg.
  • Duo de owl is on the top of the mountain – Duo de uil staat bovenop de berg.
  • The bench is in front of the Atomium – Het bankje staat voor het Atomium.
  • The mountain is behind the Atomium – De berg is achter het Atomium.
  • There is nobody on the grass – Er staat niemand op het gras.
  • Duo the owl is near the flying lingots – Duo de uil is dichtbij/vlakbij de vliegende lingots.
  • The lingots are flying above the mountain – De lingots vliegen boven de berg
  • The lanscape is below the sky – Het landschap ligt onder de lucht.

The most important prepositions of place are:

4. Prepositions of movement

The table below includes an overview of the prepositions of movement:

5. Prepositions of time

There are two types of prepositions for denoting a relation in time. There are the prepositions which indicate an established time (think of hours, days, months, years or parts thereof) and prepositions which indicate a period instead.

At an established time

During a period of time


Prepositions visualized by means of images

Return to grammar overview!

July 20, 2014



Is there any difference between dichtbij and vlakbij?


vlakbij stresses something being really near, more so than dichtbij For example in a different sense, you could use vlak to say things like: 'dat is er vlak op' (that is absolutely correct, literally: straight on), or 'het ligt vlak vóór u', it's right in front of you... etc :)


Not really. 'Dichtbij' is a bit farther away than 'vlakbij'. The translation could be 'closeby' and 'nearby'.


"Vlakbij" is for things and places; "het postkantoor is vlakbij". "Dichtbij" is more general, you can always replace "vlakbij" with "dichtbij" but not the other way around. "Dichtbij" is the word to use if you feel close to somebody. Another difference is that you can say that something is "heel dichtbij" (very close), but you cannot say that something is "heel vlakbij". "Vlakbij" is just "vlakbij". "Dichtbij can also be "een beetje dichtbij" or "super dichtbij"


It might be worth pointing out the 'beneden' and 'beneath' are both etymologically related, which might help with remembering the meaning of 'beneden' without giving you a false friend.



So I just finished the preposition lesson for this tree and wanted to leave some constructive feedback. I found that lesson quite a bit less polished than the others up to that point and wanted to offer some suggestions. Let me know if I should post this somewhere else.

So the thing about prepositions is that they tend to be pretty arbitrary and basically depend on the verb you're using, so that makes this lesson a pain because you basically had to guess which preposition to use. A tips and hints section seems like it would be pretty helpful here.

First of, a lot of phrases in Dutch use "staan", "liggen" and "sitten" where the English phrases use "is", which is pretty confusing. I think it's worthwhile to explain the situations where these verbs should be uses in Dutch, instead of expecting people to just figure it out.

Secondly, this section is full of separable verbs, which were never explained and also seem to confuse a lot of people. Honestly I wouldn't even count those as prepositions. For example, "Voorlesen" is basically a different verb than "lesen", so I think it would be better just to identify the entire verb as a new word instead of expecting people to attempt to guess how the "preposition" modifies the meaning of the verb.

Also, there are a few phrases that are basically idioms, which aren't really fair to expect people to translate. For example, "Met mij gaat het goed" means "I am fine.". The hints won't really help you get from point A to point B IMO. It wouldn't hurt to just have the hint translate the entire phrase "gaat het goed" to "is fine" or something.

I hope this feedback is useful in some way. I found this section to be a chore to grind though compared to the others since it's pretty much just guesswork based on the information provided. These are all pretty much the same sorts of things that I suggested for the German course and I think they apply here as well. Hopefully it can be improved in some way.



See the sticky'd post about all the stuff they have added but haven't made their way to us yet. They have added proper translations to lots of separable verbs that we can't see yet. Apparently it's Duolingo's problem.


The example for 'achter' should use 'ligt', correct?


Super behulpzaam, heel erg bedankt!


Hello, I have recently just finished the second lesson of Prepositions and got quite confused when tussenin, doorheen and such came out.

What’s the difference between for example, Ik loop door het park and Ik loop door het park heen? Or Mag ik tussen jullie in zitten and Mag ik tussen jullie zitten?


These differences are very subtle. "Ik loop door het park" is sort of un-directional, just like "I'm walking in the park for fun". "Ik loop door het park heen" suggests something more intentional. You would say that if you would decide to take a shorter route through the park for example. But again, the difference is quite subtle. The same goes for "tussen jullie zitten" and "tussen jullie in zitten". The latter is a way to clearly say that you want to sit between the two others, with one on each side. "Tussen jullie zitten" could also be used if you want to sit in a group for example, it is slightly more general and slightly less direct. But either way, people would understand what you want.


This really helps! Thank you!


Sounds like you could say tussen = among, and tussen in = between.


could someone please explain the difference between bij and met? is met things and bij people? i can't seem to find anything on it


and also uit vs van?


I guess the only way to differentiate is to say Bij is more like “by” in English and Met is more like “with”. It is not completely correct but it would help you to distinguish the subtle difference.

As for Uit and Van, Uit is more like out of something, which indicates a direction; Van is more like of or from. It is confusing but there are subtle differences.


I would like a clear explanation somewhere of the usage differences for "at"... "op/bij/aan". I've seen all 3 used and don't yet have an understanding of when to use each one other than memorization of the presented sentences (which isn't helpful long term).


I will try to explain, but I'm afraid it won't be easy. That is in part because, as a native Dutch speaker, I find the use of prepositions in English very confusing...

Anyway, let's giver it a go;

When to use "op" ; in the most literal way this is when you refer to a postion on top of something else. E.g " Ik zit op de tafel" means I am sitting on top of the table. "Ik zit op een stoel" means I'm sitting on top of a chair. In a less literal way; when you are participating in something. For example; "Ik zit op voetbal" means I'm playing football with a club, football is my sport. "Ik zit op school" means that you go to school not in a directional way but you go to school as a regular activity. In the same way you would say if you are taking singing lessons = " Ik zit op zangles" . As final examples "Ik ben op vakantie" means I am on holidays and "Ik ben verliefd op haar" means I am in love with her.

Ok, let's continue with "bij". You use "bij" to indicate that you are physically close to something/someone. "Ik ben bij haar" means that you are with her. "Ik ben bij de bakker" means that you are in the bakery store. You can also use to indicate that you are part of something. For example, "Ik hoor bij de tegenstanders", means I belong to the opposition.

Then, when to use "aan". "Aan" is also used to indicate a postion. "Ik zit aan tafel" or "Ik zit aan mijn bureau" But the position is different from "op" . Remember "op" is on top of, "aan" is just next to something. "Aan" is also used to indicate continuing activities for example " Ik ben aan het zoeken" means I'm looking for it at this very moment.

Hope this helps..

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