German Lessons


For vs. für

The English preposition "for" and the German accusative preposition für are not only similarly spelled, but are often interchangeable too — the problem arises in cases where they are not. Let's first take a look at some examples where "for" can be directly translated as für. If something is intended for someone:

Was kann ich für dich tun?
What can I do for you?
Caption 2, Berlin: Judith und die „Brezel Bar


When indicating quantity or money:

Für Geld machen Sie alles?
For money you'll do anything?
Caption 62, Klebt, schmeckt, macht dick: Die Süßigkeitenmesse

For stating a length or period of time:

Stattdessen wird sie in einen tiefen Schlaf fallen für viele Jahre.
Instead, she will fall into a deep sleep for many years.
Caption 29, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Dornröschen

Some English expressions with "for" also use für when translated to German: für nichts or für umsonst (for nothing); für immer (for always or forever); für nächstes Mal (for next time).

On the other hand, the English "for" may also be translated as aus, seit, or zu, with expressions like "for some reason" (aus irgendeinem Grund), "for a long time" (seit langem), and "for sale" (zum Verkauf):

Aber aus irgendeinem Grund wollte Pandora im Haus bleiben.
But for some reason Pandora wanted to stay in the house.
Captions 33-34, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Büchse der Pandora

Er ist Ungar und spielt schon seit langem mit uns zusammen.
He is Hungarian and plays with us for a long time already.
Captions 23-24, Deutsche Bands: Cabanossi

Fast jedes Ei, das zum Verkauf in Supermärkten gedacht ist…
Almost every egg that is intended for sale in supermarkets…
Caption 9, Bioeier: Wie funktioniert der Erzeugercode?

It's important to remember that prepositions are not always directly translatable; just because "for" is translated as zu in one case does not mean that zu is always translated into English as "for."


Further Learning:

Imagine a typical use of the word "for" in an English sentence, then translate it into German and search Yabla German for a similar expression to see how it is translated there. Did you get it right?


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