The preposition "to" in German: Part 3 — an

After looking at the two-way preposition in last week, let's continue our series with an. This preposition is also a two-way preposition and is used in a multitude of contexts, including with the accusative case to express movement from one place to another.

We use an rather than nach or in in some contexts where we will end up next to or to the side of something rather than in or on it. 


Sarah, komm du doch mal bitte an die Tafel.

Sarah, come up to the blackboard, please.

Caption 5, Bundesländer und ihre Spezialitäten: Baden-Württemberg

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Ich gehe rüber ans Fenster.

I go over to the window.

Caption 5, Philipp Poisel: Wie soll ein Mensch das ertragen?

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An is also used when we are going to a place that forms a boundary or edge. In particular, you can memorize an die Küste and an den Strand.


Natali und Florian zieht es zunächst an die Küste Cornwalls.

Natali and Florian proceed first to the coast of Cornwall.

Caption 28, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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In dieser Nacht segelten sie zurück an den Strand von Troja.

That night they sailed back to the beach of Troy.

Caption 80, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Das Trojanische Pferd

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Eine neue Hiobsbotschaft ist die plötzliche Abberufung Tresckows an die Ostfront.

A new piece of bad news is the sudden recall of Tresckow to the Eastern Front.

Captions 80-81, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944 - Part 5

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Und man davonfliegen möchte, so leicht wie eine kleine, weiße Feder, bis ans Ende der Welt.

And you would like to fly away, as light as a little white feather to the end of the world.

Captions 32-33, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Fernweh

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Further Learning
Other places/nouns that are commonly paired with the preposition an when they are the destination include die Kreuzung (the intersection), die Wand (the wall), and die Grenze (the border). With all three of these examples, an + the accusative is only used when the barrier is NOT being crossed or traversed and it is simply a matter of going/driving/walking "up to" it. When you see an on Yabla German, you can quickly note whether it's being used with the accusative to mean "to" or with the dative to mean "at" or "on." Don't forget, however, that an also appears in contexts that have nothing to do with going or being anywhere (for example, an etwas denken).

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