I'm currently stuck with prepositions in German, because I can't find a good English approach to them. Take the word, von, as an example. It means "from, about, by" -- according to this Collins Grammar site. They have multiple meanings in English and I usually can't decide when to use which.

2 Answers 2


That translations given to prepositions is very misleading. Unlike such parts of speech as nouns, verbs, and adjectives, the prepositions do not have unambiguous translations. Rather they function as grammatical elements, the use of which has to be remembered, as it often idiosyncratic. Moreover, what is relevant to inflected languages, such as German: the functions of prepositions overlap with those of grammatical cases.

What one has to pay attention to is:

  • The prepositions used in set language constructions
  • The prepositions following specific verbs
  • The cases used after prepositions, and whether these are always the same or vary (like accusative and dative in German, depending on whether one expresses direction or position).

You learn prepositions in exactly the same way you learn them in English: you read, hear, speak and write them often. This is a horrible and idiosyncratic part of every language (though some express it in some other besides prepositions).

Actual textbooks and language courses typically have lots of exercises where you practice precisely what kind of preposition to put where. You might also consider making an Ankidroid deck of exercises: grab lots of sentences, such as from Tatoeba, remove the prepositions and add them as answers. Then try to guess right.

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