What Are German Postpositions?

What Are the German Postpositions

In German, there are not only prepositions – particles that precede the (pro)noun indicating a relation – but also postpositions, i.e. they follow the (pro)noun.

Just as prepositions, the postpositions also require a specific case that has to be learned. In many cases, these are fix expressions.

As I indicate below, some postposition can also be used as a preposition with no meaning change.

1. nach (with dative)

When nach follows the noun, its meaning is different from that of the preposition nach as in (local:) nach Deutschland or (temporal:) nach der Arbeit.

Following the noun, it means “according to”.

Examples:

  1. den Vorhersagen nach/zufolge (= laut/gemäß den Vorhersagen): according to the predictions
  2. meiner Meinung nach (fix expression): in my opinion
  3. der Reihe nach (fix expression): one by one, successively
  4. Another meaning is “following”: (alle) mir nach (“[all/everyone] follow me”), but it is used as a preposition in the expression: nach Ihnen (polite: “you first”, literally “after you”).

2. wegen (with genitive)

This is one of the typical genitive prepositions learned in German lessons, you can use it before or after the noun. The use as a postposition is a bit outdated, but there are still some fix expressions.

Nowadays, in the spoken language, we use it not only always as a preposition but also with dative instead of genitive case!

Examples:

  1. meinetwegen (because of me, for me/my sake, also: “I don’t mind”): This is quite an old expression. The genitive-s of meines, deines, ihres etc. becomes -t-: deinetwegen, seinetwegen, ihretwegen, unseretwegen, euretwegen. (In spoken language: wegen mir/dir/ihm/ihr/etc.)
  2. der Kinder wegen: because of/due to/on account of/for the children(‘s sake) (also: wegen der Kinder)
  3. meiner Arbeit wegen: because of/due to my work (also: wegen der Arbeit)

3. entlang (with accusative or dative)

This postposition means “along”. When used as a postposition, it takes accusative:

  1. die Straße entlang (spoken language: die Straße lang): along the street
  2. den Fluss entlang: along the river

When used as a preposition, it takes dative:

  1. entlang der Straße: along the street
  2. entlang dem Fluss: along the river

4. gegenüber (with dative)

This word means “opposite (some place)” and we use it equally as a postposition or as a preposition:

dem Hotel gegenüber = gegenüber dem Hotel: opposite the hotel

5. über/durch (with accusative)

The preposition über can be used in certain expressions as a postposition:

  1. das Wochenende über = über das (übers) Wochenende: over/during the weekend
  2. den Tag über = über den Tag (tagsüber): during the day (daytime)

Durch is used as a postposition in the following expression:

  1. die (ganze) Nacht durch = through the night/all night long

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