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If a prepositional object
takes the form of a clause,
then it is usually preceded
by a da-compound that uses
the required preposition:

Er wartet darauf,
dass ich komme.

Erinnerst du mich daran,
meine Mutter anzurufen?
































by Henry Strutz


501 German Verbs lists not
only full verb conjugations
for 501 German verbs, but
also makes note of common
idiomatic verb + preposition
combinations.

























Dictionaries such as
the Harper-Collins German-
English Dictionary
contain
practical usage information
about verb + preposition
idioms and examples of
usage.

























Two very useful books,
both of which contain much
of the information covered
here and more, are:

Hammer's German Grammar
and Usage
, 2nd ed. (1983)
and
Using German, 2nd ed. (2003)

German idioms: Verb + preposition


About verb + preposition idioms

There are a number of set phrases in both English and German that consist of a verb + a certain preposition. Examples of such English phrases are: to wait for, to think of, to name after, to count on, to believe in, etc. In such idioms, the common meanings of prepositions often do not apply and the choice of preposition is completely determined by the verb choice. It is therfore best to learn the German verb and preposition pair together along with the meanings of these phrases as a whole.

As with all prepositional phrases, the case of the prepositional object will depend on the preposition itself. Thus, objects of accusative prepositions will take the accusative case and objects of dative prepositions will take the dative case.

Ich danke dir für das Geschenk. I thank you for the present.
danken für
= to thank for
für is an accusative preposition, so its object will always take the accusative case
Oma fragt mich immer nach dir. Grandma always asks me about you.
fragen nach = to ask about
nach is a dative preposition, so its object will always take the dative case.

Two-way prepositions may take either the accusative case or the dative case. In the verb + preposition combinations that employ two-way prepositions, it will be necessary to memorize along with the phrase also the case that the preposition uses in that particular phrase.

Denkst du an mich? Will you think of me?
denken an = to think of
an is a two-way preposition that happens to take the accusative case in the phrase denken an.
Er arbeitet an dem Projekt. He's working on the project.
arbeiten an = to work on
an is a two-way preposition that happens to take the dative case in the phrase arbeiten an.

Note that sentences that use such prepositional objects may also have other objects as well. This includes direct and/or indirect objects as well as additional prepositional objects.

Ich danke dir für das Geschenk. I thank you for the present.
In addition to the prepositional phrase für das Geschenk, the sentence also has a dative object dir. (danken is a dative verb.)
Oma fragt mich immer nach dir. Grandma always asks me about you.
In addition to the prepositional phrase nach dir, the sentence also has an accusative direct object mich.
Ich danke dir von Herzen für das Geschenk. I thank you from the heart for the present.
This sentence contains an additional prepositional object in von Herzen.

List of common verb + preposition idioms

Here is a list of some of the most common verb + preposition idioms in German along with their English equivalents. They are organized by preposition and, when two-way prepositions, are sub-grouped according to the case each phrase uses. General tendencies are noted wherever they apply.

Common German Verb - Preposition Idioms English equivalents

AN
 
In verb + preposition idioms, the two-way preposition an is used more frequently with the dative case than with the accusative case. Most of the an + accusative phrases refer to mental processes. The preposition in an + dative idioms often means in connection with, with respect to.
denken an (+ acc.) to think of (somebody / something)
erinnern an (+acc.) to remind of (sb. / sth.)
sich erinnern an (+ acc.) to remember (sb. / sth.)
sich gewöhnen an (+ acc.) to get used to (sb. / sth.)
glauben an (+ acc.) to believe in (sb. / sth.)
schreiben an (+ acc.) to write to (sb.)
arbeiten an (+ dat.) to work on (sth.)
hindern an (+ dat.) to prevent from doing (sth.)
leiden an (+ dat.) to suffer from (sth.)
sterben an (+ dat.) to die of (sth.)
teil·nehmen an (+ dat.) to take part in (sth.)
zweifeln an (+ dat.) to doubt (sth.)

AUF
 
In verb + preposition idioms, the two-way preposition auf is almost always used with the accusative. In the few instances where auf occurs with the dative, it indicates an enduring position, a lack of movement. Auf is the most commonly used preposition in verb + preposition idioms.
achten auf (+ acc.) to pay attention to (sb. / sth.)
antworten auf (+ acc.) to answer (sth.)
auf·passen auf (+ acc.) to keep an eye on (sb. / sth.)
beschränken auf (+ acc.) to limit to (sth.)
sich beziehen auf (+ acc.) to refer to (sb. / sth.)
sich freuen auf (+ acc.) to look forward to (sth.)
hin·weisen auf (+ acc.) to point to (sth.)
hoffen auf (+ acc.) to hope for (sth.)
sich konzentrieren auf (+ acc.) to concentrate on (sth.)
reagieren auf (+ acc.) to react to (sth.)
sich verlassen auf (+ acc.) to rely on (sb. / sth.)
verzichten auf (+ acc.) to do without (sb. / sth.)
warten auf (+ acc.) to wait for (sb. / sth.)
zählen auf (+ acc.) to count on (sb. / sth.)
bestehen auf (+ dat.) to insist on (sth.)

AUS
 
The dative preposition aus usually remains close to its conventional meaning of of or from.
bestehen aus to consist of (sth.)
entnehmen aus to gather from (sth.)
sich ergeben aus to result from (sth.)
schließen aus to conclude from (sth.)

FÜR
 
The accusative preposition für usually remains close to its conventional meaning for.
sich begeistern für to be enthusiastic about (sth.)
danken für to thank for (sth.)
sich eignen für to be suitable for (sb. / sth.)
sich entscheiden für to decide in favor of (sb. / sth.)
halten für to consider to be (sth.)
sich interessieren für to be interested in (sb. / sth.)
sorgen für to take care of (sb. / sth.)

IN
 
In most verb + preposition combinations, the two-way preposition in is used with the accusative.
ein·führen in (+ acc.) to introduce to (sth.)
sich ein·mischen in (+ acc.) to intervene, meddle in (sth.)
ein·willigen in (+ acc.) to agree to (sth.)
sich verlieben in (+ acc.) to fall in love with (sb.)
sich vertiefen in (+ acc.) to become engrossed in (sth.)
bestehen in (+ dat.) consist in (sth.)

MIT
 
The dative preposition mit normally means with in verb + preposition idioms.
sich ab·finden mit to be satisfied with (sth.)
an·fangen mit to start with (sth.)
auf·hören mit to stop doing (sth.)
sich befassen mit to deal with (sb. / sth.)
sich beschäftigen mit to be busy with (sb. / sth.)
rechnen mit to count on (sth.)
sprechen mit to speak with (sb.)
telefonieren mit to talk on the phone with (sb.)
überein·stimmen mit to agree with (sb. / sth.)
sich unterhalten mit to converse with (sb.)

NACH
 
The dative preposition nach often means after or for with verbs of calling, asking, longing, and reaching. With sensory verbs (e.g. to smell, to taste), nach usually means of or like.
aus·sehen nach to look like (sth.)
sich erkundigen nach to inquire about (sb. / sth.)
fragen nach to ask about/for (sb. / sth.)
greifen nach to grab at (sth.)
riechen nach to smell like/of (sth.)
schmecken nach to taste like (sth.)
sich sehnen nach to long for (sth.)
streben nach to strive for (sth.)
suchen nach to search for (sb. / sth.)

ÜBER
 
In verb + preposition idioms, the two-way preposition über is always used with the accusative case. In a number of idioms, über means about.
sich ärgern über (+ acc.) to be annoyed about (sb. / sth.)
sich beschweren über (+ acc.) to complain about (sb. / sth.)
diskutieren über (+ acc.) to discuss (sth.)
sich informieren über (+ acc.) to inform oneself about (sth.)
klagen über (+ acc.) to complain about (sb. / sth.)
lachen über (+ acc.) to laugh about (sb. / sth.)
nach·denken über (+ acc.) to think about, ponder (sb. / sth.)
spotten über (+ acc.) to mock (sb. / sth.)
sprechen über (+ acc.) to talk about (sb. / sth.)
sich streiten über (+ acc.) to argue about (sth.)
urteilen über (+ acc.) to judge (sb. / sth.)
verfügen über (+ acc.) to have (sth.) at one's disposal
sich wundern über (+ acc) to be surpised at/about (sb. / sth.)

UM
 
The accusative preposition um usually has the sense of concerning or with respect to in verb + preposition idioms.
sich bemühen um to make efforts toward (sth.)
betrügen um to cheat out of (sth.)
bitten um to ask for (sth.)
sich handeln um to be about (sth.)
kämpfen um to fight about (sth.)
konkurrieren um to compete for (sth.)
sich kümmern um to take care of (sb. / sth.)

VON
 
The dative preposition von usually has the sense of English of or from in verb + preposition idioms. Some verbs of thinking or communication may be used in combination with von or über in the sense of about, but in these instances über conveys a more in-depth knowledge or communication than does von.
ab·hängen von to depend on (sb. / sth.)
ab·raten von to advise against (sth.)
ab·sehen von to disregard (sth.)
erholen von to recover from (sth.)
erzählen von to tell about (sb. / sth.)
etw. halten von to think sth. of (sb. / sth.)
sprechen von to speak of (sb. / sth.)
träumen von to dream of (sb. / sth.)
überzeugen von to convince of (sth.)
wissen von to know of (sb. / sth.)

VOR
 
The two-way preposition vor is always used with the dative case in verb + preposition idioms. With verbs of fear and protection, it usually means of and from or against respectively.
Angst haben vor (+ dat.) to be afraid of (sb. / sth.)
beschützen vor (+ dat) to protect from (sb. / sth.)
fliehen vor (+ dat.) to flee from (sb. /sth.)
sich fürchten vor (+ dat.) to be afraid of (sb. / sth.)
sich hüten vor (+ dat.) to be on guard against (sb. / sth.)
retten vor (+ dat.) to save from (sb. / sth.)
warnen vor (+ dat.) to warn against (sb. / sth.)

ZU
 
In verb + preposition idioms, the dative preposition zu sometimes means to or into, particularly with verbs of empowering, leading, persuading, etc.
bei·tragen zu to contribute to (sb. / sth.)
bewegen zu to induce to (do sth.)
dienen zu to serve the purpose of (sth.)
sich eignen zu to be suitable as (sth.)
führen zu to lead to (sth.)
gehören zu to part of (sth.)
gratulieren zu to congratulate on (sth.)
heraus·fordern zu to challenge to (sth.)
neigen zu to lean toward (sb. / sth.)
passen zu to suit (sb. / sth.)
rechnen zu to count as one of (sth.)
treiben zu to drive / impel to (sth.)
überreden zu to talk into (sth.)
zählen zu to count as one of (sth.)
zwingen zu to force into (doing sth.)


Books consulted:
Hammer's German Grammar and Usage, 2nd ed., by A.E. Hammer, revised by Martin Durrell, 544 p. (1983)
Using German, 2nd ed., Martin Durrell, 319 p. (2003)


About verb + preposition idioms | List of common verb + preposition idioms
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