The most important German verbs with prepositions

The most important German verbs with prepositions

by Jakob Straub
September 16, 2021

Prepositions in combination with verbs can specify things like position, time, possession or the way something is done. German verbs with prepositions can have fixed meanings, or a verb can take various prepositions to express different things. Because you have to remember the proper case to use after the preposition, they can prove challenging to learn. Reflexive verbs complicate things further. Don’t despair, our overview will teach you the most important German verb preposition combinations and how to best remember them.

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How do verbs with prepositions work in German?

German verbs with prepositions are easy to learn if the verb is fixed with only one preposition and case. You’ll then have to remember these two and their meaning. More often, though, various prepositions will express a difference in meaning. Regarding the case following the preposition, there are three possibilities:

  • The verb has a preposition always followed by the dative case: aus, bei, mit, nach, von, zu
  • The verb has a preposition always followed by the accusative case: für, gegen, um
  • The verb has a two-way preposition, which can take either case: an, auf, in, über, unter, vor, zwischen

Luckily, only the prepositions an, auf, in are ‘true’ two-way prepositions and can take both dative and accusative with a change in meaning. The prepositions über, unter, vor and zwischen specify a place or position and take these cases:

  • über + accusative
  • unter + dative
  • vor + dative
  • zwischen + dative

In a sentence, the preposition precedes the object or phrase to which the verb refers. It can specify a place, a person or recipient, an object, or a manner. Do you need to refresh your knowledge of German cases? Learn the difference between dative and accusative in German!

How many German prepositions are there?

German verb preposition combinations are limited to a subset of all German prepositions. They only take the dative or accusative case, not the genitive case. Some so-called two-way prepositions can take both cases, not interchangeably, but with two different meanings.

  • an (dat. + acc.) – to
  • auf (dat. + acc.) – on
  • aus (dat.) – from
  • bei (dat.) – at
  • durch (acc.) – by
  • für (acc.) – for
  • gegen (acc.) – against
  • in (dat. + acc.) – in
  • mit (dat.) – with
  • nach (dat.) – after
  • ohne (acc.) – without
  • über (acc.) – about
  • um (acc.) – to
  • unter (dat.) – under
  • von (dat.) – from
  • vor (dat.) – before
  • zu (dat.) – to
  • zwischen (dat.) – between

How do you know what preposition to use in German?

Unfortunately, there are no clues or rules to tell you which preposition to use with a German verb. It’s something you have to look up in a dictionary and then learn by rote memorization, similar to the case following the preposition. Pay attention to how native speakers combine German verbs with prepositions, and over time, you’ll learn how the meaning of phrases changes accordingly. We’ll also give you more tips for learning prepositions below.

For the proper cases, there are a few which can only take one case:

  • Prepositions that always take the dative: bei, mit, von, nach, zu
  • Prepositions that always take the accusative: ohne, für, durch, gegen

Study German prepositions in detail with our top tips on how to learn them!

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German verbs and prepositions list

The following overview will list the most important German verbs with prepositions. Here are a few examples of German verbs with prepositions as they’re used in full sentences:

  • Ich schicke die E-Mail an meine Freundin. I’m sending the email to my girlfriend.
  • Wir müssen auf die Lautstärke achten. We have to watch the volume.
  • Er bedankt sich bei mir. He is thanking me.

As you can see, only the first example follows the straightforward order of subject, verb, object. The verb senden (to send) is taking two objects here, with the preposition before the second, specifying the recipient.

The second example demonstrates the use with an auxiliary verb: the infinite part of the verb is in last position at the end of the sentence, preceded by the preposition and object.

Lastly, in the case of a reflexive verb, the pronoun comes before the preposition and the object, which in this case uses a dative case.

ändern andat.(to) change about
arbeiten andat.(to) work on
denken anacc.(to) think of
glauben anacc.(to) believe in
hindern an dat.(to) prevent from
leiden an dat.(to) suffer from
schicken anacc.(to) send to
schreiben anacc.(to) write to
sterben anacc.(to) die of
teilnehmen andat.(to) participate in
zweifeln andat.(to) doubt
achten aufdat.(to) watch, take care of
ankommen aufacc.(to) depend on
antworten aufacc.(to) answer to
aufpassen aufacc.(to) take care of
bestehen aufacc.(to) insist on
hoffen aufacc.(to) hope for
warten aufacc.(to) wait for
bestehen ausdat.(to) consist of
arbeiten beidat.(to) work at
helfen beidat.(to) help with
zuschauen / zusehen beidat.(to) watch
zuhören beidat.(to) listen to
ausgeben füracc.(to) spend for
danken füracc.(to) thank for
halten füracc.(to) take for
kämpfen füracc.(to) fight for
sein füracc.(to) be for
sorgen füracc.(to) care for
kämpfen gegenacc.(to) fight against
protestieren gegenacc.(to) protest against
sein gegenacc.(to) be against
anfangen mitdat.(to) start with
aufhören mitdat.(to) stop (with)
beginnen mitdat.(to) begin with
handeln mitdat.(to) trade with / in
rechnen mitdat.(to) count on
spielen mitdat.(to) play with
sprechen mitdat.(to) speak with
streiten mitdat.(to) argue with
telefonieren mitdat.(to) call
vergleichen mitdat.(to) compare to / with
fragen nachdat.(to) ask for
riechen nachdat.(to) smell like
schmecken nachdat.(to) taste like
suchen nachdat.(to) search for
diskutieren überacc.(to) discuss
erschrecken überacc.(to) get frightened by
erzählen überacc.(to) talk of / about
klagen überacc.(to) complain about
(nach)denken überacc.(to) think about
lachen überacc.(to) laugh about
reden überacc.(to) talk about
sagen überacc.(to) speak / say about
schimpfen überacc.(to) complain / swear about
sprechen über acc.(to) talk about
streiten überacc.(to) argue about
bitten umacc.(to) ask / plead for
gehen umacc.(to) revolve around
leiden unteracc.(to) suffer from
abhängen vondat.(to) depend on
erfahren vondat.(to) learn about
erzählen vondat.(to) tell about
halten vondat.(to) think of / regard
handeln vondat.(to) revolve around / be about
hören vondat.(to) hear of
leben vondat.(to) live off
reden vondat.(to) talk about
träumen vondat.(to) dream of
verstehen vondat.(to) be versed in / skilled in
wissen vondat.(to) know about
fliehen vordat.(to) flee from
warnen vordat.(to) warn of
einladen zudat.(to) invite to
gehören zudat.(to) belong to
gratulieren zudat.(to) gratulate on
kommen zu dat.(to) come to
sagen zu dat.(to) say to
schicken zudat.(to) send to
werden zu dat.(to) become

German reflexive verbs with prepositions

Reflexive verbs use a reflexive pronoun to express that the subject and object of a verb in a sentence are the same, i.e. “I am cleaning myself”, ich wasche mich. Such expressions are more common in German than in English. Of course, there are German reflexive verbs with prepositions as well.

sich ärgern überacc.(to) get angry about / with
sich bedanken beidat.(to) thank someone
sich bedanken füracc.(to) thank for
sich bemühen umacc.(to) strive for, be eager for  
sich beschäftigen mitdat.(to) deal with, to concern with
sich beschweren beidat.(to) complain to 
sich beteiligen andat.(to) take part in 
sich bewerben beidat.(to) apply at
sich bewerben umacc.(to) apply for
sich beziehen aufacc.(to) refer to
sich entscheiden füracc.(to) decide on 
sich entschließen zudat,(to) resolve to 
sich entschuldigen füracc.(to) apologize for
sich entschuldigen beidat.(to) apologize to
sich erholen vondat.(to) recover from
sich erinnern anacc.(to) recall / remember
sich erkundigen nachdat.(to) ask after
sich freuen aufacc.(to) look forward to
sich freuen überacc.(to) rejoice about
sich gewöhnen anacc.(to) get used to 
sich handeln umacc.(to) be about 
sich informieren überacc.(to) inform oneself about 
sich interessieren füracc.(to) be interested in
sich konzentrieren aufacc.(to) concentrate on
sich kümmern umacc.(to) take care of / care for
sich schützen vordat.(to) protect oneself from
sich sorgen umacc.(to) worry about / for
sich treffen mitdat.(to) meet with
sich treffen zudat.(to) meet for
sich unterhalten mitdat.(to) talk with
sich unterhalten überacc.(to) talk about
sich verabreden mitdat.(to) arrange (to meet) with
sich verabschieden vondat.(to) say goodbye to
sich verlassen aufacc.(to) rely on
sich verstehen mitdat.(to) get along with
sich vorbereiten aufacc.(to) prepare oneself for
sich wenden anacc.(to) turn to
sich wundern überacc.(to) wonder about

Need to refresh your knowledge of German conjugation? Here’s everything you need to know about modal verbs in German.

How to learn German verbs with prepositions

German verbs with prepositions can prove difficult, because, as you can see, a fixed expression with a German verb preposition combination can result in a more abstract meaning. In addition, you have to learn the prepositions and cases by heart. But here are a few tips to master German verbs with prepositions:

  • Learn the list of prepositions at the same time as learning the verb, then remember the cases for each preposition.
  • The best way to do so is with examples. Study sentences with German preposition verbs and pay attention to the cases.
  • To make it easier, don’t study the verbs in their alphabetical order—that’s why we’ve grouped the above list by prepositions. Commit the most important verbs with one preposition to memory first, then move on to the next preposition.
  • To strengthen your memory, come up with mnemonic sentences for each German verb with a preposition. They don’t have to be logical, just memorable!

Are you looking for more verb lists for learning German? Start here and learn the one hundred most common German verbs first!

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Jakob is a freelance writer in Barcelona, Spain, and his favorite books have pages all empty. As an expert storyteller, he publishes creative fiction in English and German and helps other authors shape their manuscripts into compelling stories. Thanks to an expertise in a wide range of topics such as writing, literature and productivity to marketing, travel, and technology, he produces engaging content for his clients. Apart from the escape that books offer, Jakob enjoys traveling digital nomad style and stays active with climbing and hiking. Find out more about him on his website, Twitter or on Goodreads.