A German grammar challenge: the two-case prepositions
Let the flamingos loose
A real German grammar challenge, two way prepositions or as we prefer to call them two-case prepositions. These typically cause a lot of confusion. But once you understand how they work, they are actually very logical and easy to handle. And you will read in this article how we have recruited the help of a couple of flamingos to help you memorise the two-case prepositions!
So what are two-case or two way prepositions?
We all know this German grammar challenge can be a pain in the a**, and two-case prepositions seemingly make this more difficult. Two way or two-case prepositions are a group of prepositions (i.e. tiny little words that make no sense and are therefore hard to memorise) that cause a change in the articles (den, dem etc.) and adjectives (schön, gut, groß etc.) that follow.
That change is important and is called Akkusativ or Dativ. Akkusativ and Dativ are so called cases. <In German we have 4 of those cases, the other two are Nominativ (which is the basis and very straight forward) and the Genitiv (which is irrelevant, as it’s hardly used. )>
As the name two-case prepositions might give away already, these tiny little words can be followed by either of the two cases above: Akkusativ or Dativ. This is also why they are often called two way prepositions.
However, one doesn’t really know when to pick which case. Lucky enough, Hans Deutschendorf, the inventor of the two-case prepositions, has invented a rule for them.
A | If it moves from A to B you use Akkusativ.
B | If it is a static position (in the physical world) you use Dativ.
An example of two way prepositions
A | Ich fliege in die Türkei. - die Türkei is Akkusativ as it follows “in” which is a two-case preposition and as flying means that one is moving from A (Berlin) to B (Türkei).
B | Ich bin in der Türkei. - der Türkei is Dativ as it also follows “in” but now I (=ich) am (=bin) in Turkey already. No more movement necessary. I’ll just lie down and smoke my shisha.
All this will be covered in my Everyday German Online course (A1-B1) step by step so that you can make yourself gradually familiar with the concept. That’s important so that you don’t get overwhelmed or confused.
Oh no exceptions!
Unfortunately there is one big problem with those rules above: they don’t apply to every situation.
Take a look:
C | Ich denke an meine Mama. - I’m thinking of my mum. — Here “meine Mama” is Akkusativ and it follows the two-case preposition “an” but your thinking (=denken) is not moving physically from A-B. “denken” has nothing to do with the physical world (except that your Mama might be real). Hence, the rules above can’t be applied.
But don’t worry, I’ll cover that nicely in one of my beautifully simple Master Classes which you find in my Everyday German Online Course.
Let the Flamingos loose
Now, the first step is always the hardest and that is to memorize the two-case prepositions. Harry Bum Tschak and Jean-Baptiste Castel have worked with me to create music and a video to help you memorize the two-case prepositions. Which led to this gorgeous music video.
Let us know on Youtube if you like this video!
Do you want to learn the moves?
If you watched this video and you want to dance along…. here are the moves:
vor – in front of – hands in front of you
hinter – behind – hands behind you
über – over – hands over your head
unter – under – hands down/under
neben – next to – hand as in Beyonce’s “put a ring on it”
an – on (e.g. the wall) – slap hand to the face
zwischen – between – head between your hands
auf – on top of – one hand on your butt
in – in(to) – hold your arms above your head, grab your elbows; build an "o" with your arms and put your head inside the "o".
This post was written by Michael Schmitz