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Taking the Dative Case: Around Town with German Prepositions

written by: Gillian Hendrie•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/8/2013

The dative case is used for location and sometimes for movement. Learn to use the dative case easily with the appropriate prepositions to give directions and locations in German.

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    In a previous article you looked at prepositions taking the accusative case in German, and how that affects the nouns you are talking about. Now we consider the dative case prepositions and what changes these bring to our "around town" nouns.

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    Dative Prepositions: 'A' List

    With the accusative case, we have the mnemonic FUDGEBOW to help us remember the "accusative prepositions". Unfortunately, there's no such "nice" acronym for the prepositions which always take the dative case - as far as I know! - but this is a rhyme we used to have at school:
    • Aus, bei, gegenüber, mit, nach, seit, von, zu
    • take the dative - always do.
    Each of these prepositions will ALWAYS be followed by the dative case.
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    How to Form The Dative Case

    In this case,
    • der and das both become dem, while
    • die becomes der.
    In addition,
    • von + dem contracts to vom and
    • zu + dem becomes zum.
    Examples:
    zu + der Bahnhof: Wie komme ich zum Bahnhof?
    gegenüber + die Kirche: Die Bibliotheke liegt gegenüber der Kirche.
    von + das Rathaus: Ich komme gerade vom Rathaus.
    These sentences use "around town" vocabulary.
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    Prepositions: 'B' List

    In addition to those above, some prepositions will take the dative if there is no movement involved, i.e. describing location only. These include:
    • in, hinter, vor, über, unter, zwischen

    Examples:

    unter + der Stuhl: The book is under the chair = Das Buch ist unter dem Stuhl.

    hinter + die Brücke: The house is behind the bridge = Das Haus liegt hinter der Brücke.

    in + das Hotel: He's in the hotel = Er ist im Hotel.

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    Practice Exercise

    Try to complete these sentences. (Answers below.)
    1. Das Cafe liegt hinter .......... (der Bahnhof).
    2. Das Rathaus liegt zwischen ....... (das Rathaus) und ...... (die Kirche).
    3. Ich komme gerade von ..... (das Kino).
    4. Er sitzt in ...... (die Oper).
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    Answer Key to Practice Exercise

    1. Das Cafe liegt hinter dem Bahnhof.
    2. Das Rathaus liegt zwischen dem Rathaus und der Kirche.
    3. Ich komme gerade vom Kino.
    4. Er sitzt in der Oper.