Introduction to two-way prepositions, Part 1 (5-Minute German Grammar)


Welcome to 5-Minute German Grammar. Thank you for watching! This presentation will introduce two-way prepositions. In an earlier presentation you were introduced
to the interrogative adverbs “wo” (“where”), “wohin” (“where to”), and “woher”
(“where from”). You will recall that interrogative adverbs
ask questions about the location of an activity or its direction. For example, in the sentence here, “Wohin
geht sie” (“Where is she going to?”), the interrogative adverb “wohin” inquires
about the direction of the subject of the sentence. We are reviewing these adverbs now because
knowing how they function will help us understand our next grammar topic, two-way prepositions,
a bit better. A two-way preposition, such as “in,” is
so-called because it can take either an accusative or dative object depending on whether it describes
movement or position. We’ll go over the full list of these prepositions
in a later presentation. So, if I were to ask the question “Wo ist
Petra?” (“Where is Petra?”), which is a question
about her position, I would need to use “in” with a dative
object: “Petra ist in dem Haus” (“Petra is in the house”). However, if I were to ask the question “Wohin
geht Petra?” (“Where is Petra going to?”), which is
a question about her motion, I would need to use “in” with an accusative
object: “Petra geht in das Haus” (“Petra is going into the house”). Two-way prepositions are useful in that they
help us avoid ambiguity and confusion. For example, the sentence you see here, “Hans
is running behind the house,” could have a few different meanings. Do I mean that Hans is in the front of the
house and, hearing a noise in the backyard, runs quickly behind the house to find out
what is making it? Or do I mean that Hans, who is independently
wealthy and has a track in his backyard, runs there every morning to keep in shape? In English, both sentences would require more
information to make the meaning clear. In German, the object of a two-way preposition
makes the meaning clear. If the object is in the accusative case, motion
is indicated. Position is indicated if the the object is
in the dative case. So, if Hans hears a noise in his backyard
and runs behind the house to find out what is making it, the object of the two-way preposition
would be in the accusative case: “Hans läuft hinter das Haus.” If, however, he has a track in his backyard
and runs around it to keep in shape, this activity is localized. To report the position or location of his
activity, therefore, we would need to use the dative case: “Hans läuft hinter dem
Haus.” Again, we’ll go over the different meanings
of two-way prepositions in the following videos. Finally, thanks to the Noun Project artists
whose images I used here to illustrate the concept of German two-way prepositions. The 5-Minute German Grammar series is produced
by David Neville, Associate Professor of German. The videos, scripts, and lecture slides are
released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Don’t be a square – remix and share!

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