German Prepositions Explained – “von”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to a new episode of the series German Prepositions Explained – the series where German Prepositions get the spanking that they deserve. I mean, figuratively – the spanking is the explanation. And they like it, because German prepositions are a bit kinky. Or was it tricky?
Anyways, today, we will take a look at the meaning of

von

 

 

As usual in this series, we’ll look at the word from all perspectives. So we’ll talk about von as a preposition, but we’ll also compile the most common verbs that “want” von as a preposition and see if there’s some underlying theme. And of course we’ll talk about the verbs that have von as a prefix.
And in fact, let’s start with those right away because…. there aren’t any. There’s no vonmachen or vongehen or vonsehen.
All the other prepositions were always like
“Come one, bro. You should prefix some time. It’s super lit.”
but von was always
Nah, I don’t wanna. I’d rather go surfing.”
And do you know which car von is using to get to the beach?
A van.

Yup, looks like the jokes are as flat as the sea today.
Perfect for a swim, so let’s jump right in …

“von” as a preposition

According to the last official count from December, German has about one trillion prepositions. Von is among the most important ones because it is one of the two main prepositions that express the idea of origin.
The other one is aus, and while aus generally carries a notion of exiting, von is used for origins that do NOT involve some sort of exiting – either because it’s not possible or it’s just not the focus.
Sounds a bit abstract, so let’s go over the most important contexts together.

The first big one is people as point of origin – be it in a sense of actual location or just the person as source.

  • Thomas kommt von Maria.
  • Thomas is coming from Maria.
  • Thomas kommt vom Frisör.
  • Thomas is coming from the hair dresser.

  • Die Idee ist von mir.
  • The idea is mine. (“The idea is from me.”)
    (this phrasing is more common in German than it is in English)

And the third example already kind of shows the next context: possession. That’s actually super close to the idea of origin. Why? well, because an owner is the “potential” point of origin.

  • Das T-Shirt von Thomas riecht nach Mondstaub und Rosen.
  • Thomas’s T-Shirt/The t-shirt of Thomas smell of moon dust and roses.

That’s a REALLY crazy story, by the way. If we have time left at the end I’ll tell you a little about it.
Anyway, besides people, von is also used if the point of origin is a store, if you refer to it by its name.
Yes, stores are usually locations that you can enter and exit, but if you use the brand name, then it’s kind of personified and aus sounds pretty weird (unless you add an article, then it’s okay again).

  • Ich komme von H&M am Bahnhof.
  • I’m coming from H&M at the train station.
  • Die Tomaten sind von Gucci.
  • The tomatoes are from Gucci.

  • Ich komme von McDonalds. Mein Bauch auch.
  • I come from McDonalds. So does my belly.

And the last example leads us right over to the other really important context: causes.
Which, if you think about it, is also a point of origin. The origin of my belly is McDonalds. I mean, the belly of this fictional first person character, not mine. I rarely go to belly and I don’t have a McDona… I mean, I don’t have a bell… oh gee, whatever… examples.

  • “Boah, deine Haut ist so trocken.”
    “Ja, das ist vom vielen Abwaschen.”
  • “Boah, your skin is so dry.”
    “Yeah, it’s from all the washing dishes.”

  • Von nichts kommt nichts. (common German idiom)
  • No pain, no gain.
    “From
    nothing comes nothing.

  • Die Kopfschmerzen kommen von dem Wein.
  • The headache comes from the wine.

Now, looking at all the examples we’ve had so far you might be like
“Wait, you could have just said that von means from.”
But there’s a reason why I didn’t do that.
Well two if “Emanuel likes to ramble” counts as a reason.
Seriously though, the reason why I didn’t just say von means from is the third language learner’s commandment:

Thou shalt not translate prepositions for it leads to confusion.

This ancient saying is very wise. It is one of the most common traps for beginners that they pick one translation for a preposition and then keep running into phrasings and situations where it doesn’t work. That is the usage of prepositions, especially in combination with verbs is largely dependent on what ended up being the most idiomatic choice. And just because something is idiomatic in German, doesn’t mean it’s idiomatic in English and vice versa.
So instead of being fixated on one or a couple of translations, it’s better to know the core idea the preposition conveys (stuff like toward, away, above… ) and then see if we can find a system behind the usage.
So instead of saying

von means from

it’s better to say

von is for points of origin that are not about exiting: people, brand names, causes

Hey… I said “better”, not easier or comfier.
But trust me… start thinking of prepositions in terms of concepts rather than translations. That’ll lead to much less frustration.
That said, von and from do line up pretty well for locations. Except for one context: geographical names.
If the context is that you travel from A to B, then von is fine, but if you’re talking about origin, then you need to use aus.

  • Ich fliege von Berlin nach New York.
  • I’m flying from Berlin to New York.
  • I am from Berlin.
  • Ich komme aus von Berlin.
  • This wine is from South Africa.
  • Dieser Wein kommt aus Südafrika.

Cool.
So that was von as a preposition. Now let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic: verb-preposition combos.

 

“OMG, Emanuel just used an animated .gif. We are so…”

 

Yup. I’m basically German Buzzfeed now.

Top 15 best “von” combinations with verbs (and why you should)

Hmmm… I did what it said in the BuzzFeed-Headlines Online Course but this one sounded a bit weird….
Anyways, if you’re not sure what I mean with these combinations – it’s those verbs that you need to combine with a specific preposition to form a proper sentence. Pretty much every language that has prepositions will have these combinations and a great example in English would be to depend, where the full phrasing is actually to depend on.
You can’t just say

  • It depends the weather.

or

  • It depends from the weather.

It needs to be on. But there’s no deeper reason why it is not at or from. It just happened to be on, and in a different language it might be something that usually doesn’t translate to on, which is why we need to learn them by heart, pretty much. *ugh… I know.

Cool, so now that we all know what those combinations are, let’s look at the most common German verbs that go with von.
And we’re already kind of talking about one of the most important ones. because to depend on in German is abhängen von.
So in German you literally say “to hang from”. And that actually ties in quite well with the idea of a point of origin, that we found in the beginning.

  • Das hängt vom Wetter ab.
  • That depends on the weather.
  • “Kommst du morgen zu meiner Opernpremiere?”
    “Das hängt davon ab, ob mein Schwein wieder fliegen kann.”
    “Ich verstehe.”
  • “Are you going to come to my opera premiere?”
    “That depends on whether my pig can fly again.”
    “I get it.”

We’ve talked about abhängen von in a separate article, by the way, in case you need more examples or you’re wondering about the difference to ankommen auf. I’ll give you the link below.
But now let’s go right to the next von-combo, überzeugen von, which means to convince of.

  • Maria findet einen Bierbauch nicht sexy. Thomas versucht verzweifelt, sie vom Gegenteil überzeugen.
  • Maria doesn’t find a beer belly sexy. Thomas desperately tries to convince her of the opposite.
  • Ich bin davon überzeugt, dass es Einhörner gibt.
  • I am convinced (“of the fact”) that unicorns exist.

Does that tie in with the basic idea for von? I think yes. Just think of the phrasing “I know where you’re coming from.” The matter we’re trying to convince someone of, is basically our point of origin.
And in fact, this notion of a figurative point of origin can whole group of vor combos. Well, the only group of von-combos to be exact :). Here they are:

erzählen von – tell about
reden von – talk about
wissen von – know about
denken von – think about

träumen von* – dream of
schwärmen von* – rave about
halten von* – think about

What they all share is that they involve some sort of thought about a subject. The thought can be expressed and voiced, thought silently, or it can even be subconscious. Either way, there’s a subject (matter) as a source, a point of origin for a thought process. Not super obvious, but also not the craziest mind yoga German has to offer :).
Anyway, example time:

  • Erzähl mir von deinem Traum!
  • Tell me about your dream!
  • Morgen kommt deine Mutter? Warum weiß ich nichts davon?
  • Your mom will come tomorrow? Why do I not know about that?
  • “Der Unterschied zwischen Lager und Weizen ist, dass Lager aus roten Trauben gemacht wird und Weizen aus we…”
    “Ich glaube, du hast keine Ahnung wovon du redest.”
  • “The difference between a lager and a weizen is that lager is made from red grapes and weizen is ma…”
    “I think you have no idea what you are talking about.”

  • Was hältst du von dem neuen Praktikanten?
  • What are your thoughts on the new intern?
  • Ich habe wieder von Zombies geträumt.
  • I dreamed of zombies again.

Now, you might be wondering about the colors. Well, the blue ones are fixed. That means you need to use von or it will not work.
The green ones on the other hand are NOT fixed. That means von is just one possible preposition to make it work. The other common one for those verbs is über and the difference is quite subtle, to be honest. To me, von sounds a little tiny bit more distant than über. Like… von makes me think of some sort of pipeline of information while über is more like being in a balloon hovering above the subject. That’s the best I can put it.
Yeah… I know… German teacher, level 100.
Seriously though, I think über is more common and it’s also closer to about, so maybe just remember that one, but please don’t worry about this difference too much, because native speakers will not notice this effort.

Cool.
Now, we’re almost done for the day, but there are a couple more verbs with von I want to mention.
The first one is haben von. Technically, it is about having something from somewhere, but it’s also used in two common phrasings that are all too common in our ego-oriented, capitalist world… *sheds tear, posts picture in Instagram to show vulnerability and appear authentic

  • Was hab ich davon?
  • What’s do I stand to gain? /What do I get?/What’s in it for me.?
  • Das hast du davon.
  • That’s what you get.
    (in the sense of “you got what you deserved”)

And last but not least, we have the phrasing sich erholen von which is just what you need after a long, straining session of learning German… exactly: to recover. And yup, you need both, the preposition AND a self reference :).
I think, sich erholen von sounds a bit less serious than to recover, so you can use it for just an hour of relaxation after a long hike. But it also works for serious life threatening diseases.

  • Thomas hat sich noch nicht von dem Männerschnupfen erholt.
  • Thomas hasn’t fully recovered from the men’s cold.

That poor man.

Hang in there, Thomas. You will pull through!
And that’s it for today.
This was our look at the German preposition von and it was quite quick actually.
Yeaaaaay!
Von is definitely one of the easier prepositions to grasp because the core idea of point of origin is pretty damn consistent and more or less visible in all the uses. And of course the fact that there are no prefix versions makes it much easier.
As always, if you .. what?… oh, the story about Thomas’s shirt and moon dust. Oh we don’t have time left. We’ll just do that next time. Sooooo sorry.
But yeah, if you have any questions about any of this or if you have some other verb-von-combination that you want to add, just leave me a comment. I hope you we liked it and see you next time.

further reading:

German prefix verbs explained – “abhängen”
Word of the Day – “ankommen”

Test yourself!

My wonderful assistant has prepared a little quiz for you. 10 questions to check if you remember everything :).
Let her know, how you liked it in the comments. She’s really curious for feedback :)
Viel Spaß!

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gallia_a
gallia_a
11 months ago

Ich habe eine Frage über die Idea “people as point of origin”. Ich habe oft gelesen, die Frage “woher weißt du das?” benutzen werden. Kann man auch “wovon weißt du das?” oder besser “von wem weißt du das?” sagen?

gallia_a
gallia_a
11 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Klar, danke

Ava
Ava
1 year ago

hi I was watching dark days ago I noticed something about “von” in this sentence
**Aber die Unterscheidung von Vergangenheit Gegenwart und Zukunft**
here von means “between” I’m really confused I searched it up but it doesn’t mean between but in this sentence the meaning is different I thought you can help me :) and thanks for your amazing website.

Ava
Ava
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

thank you so much you’re amazing

PeterB
PeterB
1 year ago

Even English merges nouns sometimes. So, it should be “hairdresser” as one word.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Don’t worry, neither do a lot of native speakers!!

Cameroni
Cameroni
2 years ago

thank you for another great article

It’s the first time I tried listening to the audio clips, now I regret not having done so with other articles I’ve read. They’re very funny, and the jokes you write get me everytime despite how stupid they are haha

Anony787
Anony787
2 months ago
Reply to  Cameroni

How do you listen to the audio clips? Is it only through a certain browser?

Turtles
Turtles
2 years ago

1) Einhorn convo

Einhorn 1 : Wir lernen nichts von dir
Ein horn 2 : aber Ich erzählen Ihnnen davon, wie ich den Geist getötet habe
Einhorn 1 : ich träumen ein tag davon, wo Dummheit tot ist

2) I am really thinking about “von” vs “über” in context of about, . I red the balloon analogy but the doesn’t tell me what I should do if i don’t the pattern

Is it just a combo I must know?

3) denken von vs denken an,

Eduardo
Eduardo
2 years ago

When you say VON is used for origins that dont involve or focus exiting, whats your thought about the exiting idea? Because i cant grasp the concept of exiting.

Eduardo
Eduardo
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I mean i get the idea by understanding Aus and thinking of VON as a contrary of Aus. Thats how i get it right I suppose.

dirron
dirron
3 years ago

Hallo. Einige Rückmeldungen für dich. Ich habe versucht, das Quiz zu beenden, aber ich konnte die Fragen jedoch nicht klar auf meinem Handybildschirm sehen. Dieses Problem hatte ich mit anderen täglichen deutschen E-Mails nicht. Grüße aus London! Wayne

dirron
dirron
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Es funktioniert jetzt perfekt. Vielen Dank Emanuel

Bob R
Bob R
3 years ago

I took the test before and after; before was a good motivation to pay attention. After was a good result. I am impressed that the question order is changed each time! For the first exposure, that is great.

Tom
Tom
3 years ago

Hi,
I’m a bit confused by this: “Ja, das ist vom vielen Abwaschen.” – Why voM when it is followed by “vielen” (plural)?
Otherwise, awesome article. Many thanks!

Tom
Tom
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Got it. Thanks a lot! Could you use “Menge” here? Something like “Ja, das ist von der Menge Abwaschen.”

Mjk
3 years ago

Lol! The pranks in the alternatives were awesome!! Von von von von von… I was belly laughing here!
Good job, Assistentin!

Pentatomidae
Pentatomidae
3 years ago

So my German text book has the phrase “handeln von”, as in “Die Serie handelt von einer Ärtzin”. Is this translated as kind of “deals with”? I can’t quite see the point of origin here, but I’m trying to squint at it sideways to see if it works.

Pentatomidae
Pentatomidae
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Brilliant, thank you!

Barbara
Barbara
3 years ago

Luurve the test!

Ding Dong !! A VON calling!!
Ding Dong !! A VON calling!!
3 years ago
Reply to  Barbara

der Albtraum auch: Alptraum -nightmare

Thema:
Zwei Ami Bleichmittel Blondies
Die eine ein Alp Traum!
Der andere ein Alptraum!

Aus Vonn ist ein realistischer von-Vonn Doppelwunderwahn !
Alles geht bergauf vonstatten wenn so schnell wie möglich es bergab geht!
Von dem Mund von Vonn ließ es fließend Deutsch daVonn heraus sausen!

Lindsey Vonn
ZDF Interview:
7Min.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=lindsey+vonn+zdf+interview&view=detail&mid=6C927272729F6467ECBB6C927272729F6467ECBB&FORM=VIRE

—————————————————————————–
Die Kapelle und Meister “Trumpete Tiere”
wurden gerade von der Deutscher Mutti beschimpft
und mindestens bei mir vertretbar zu recht,
aber sicher das Ganze ist außerhalb Zwecks.
Der Depp hat sogar keine Ahnung von Klopapiere!
Gegen Arroganz und Ignoranz, kann leider nicht geimpft.

Mit Deals und Politik meistens ein Versager.
Den Dompteur mit der Peitsche sofort holen!
Und alle gleich sammeln im Zoo Käfiglager!
Wo Affen und Trumpete Tiere gehören sollen

Dodo Don John Popo poo-poo Schuh boo-boo mit Windel-Wischer
41 Sek.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=trump+tp+shoe&view=detail&mid=247F7F998898F908BDC7247F7F998898F908BDC7&FORM=VIRE

20.2.19

Quadruple "A" ALARM for USA!
Quadruple "A" ALARM for USA!
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

ALARM!!!
Ausnahmezustand “A” mal 4!
Angst vor Autos, Angie und Ausländer!

In München, sei die Angie sehr angefressen!
Grund dafür wollt ihr wissen?
Weil es dem Trump wie immer gegen alles gefeit,
egal ist, die GLOBAL-sicherheit!

Für ihre Konferenz hat er keine Zeit,
und unbewußt dabei noch schlimmer,
brüskiert er,
ihr Schnitzeldinner!!

Er schickt das Töchterlein und Vertreter Pence,
bleibt selbst zuhaus’ und schreit nur,
Fence! Fence! Fence!!

21.2.19

———————————————————————————-

https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/aktuelles/merkel-nur-wir-alle-zusammen–1580920
Merkel Zitat :
Ich sage ganz offen: Wenn es uns mit der transatlantischen Partnerschaft ernst ist, dann ist es für mich als deutsche Bundeskanzlerin zumindest nicht ganz einfach, jetzt zu lesen, dass offensichtlich – ich habe es noch nicht schriftlich vor Augen gehabt – das amerikanische Handelsministerium sagt, europäische Autos seien eine Bedrohung der nationalen Sicherheit der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika.
Schauen Sie: Wir sind stolz auf unsere Autos; und das dürfen wir ja auch sein. Diese Autos werden auch in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika gebaut. In South Carolina ist das größte BMW-Werk – nicht in Bayern, in South Carolina. South Carolina liefert wiederum nach China. Wenn diese Autos, die ja dadurch, dass sie in South Carolina gebaut werden, doch nicht weniger bedrohlich werden als dadurch, dass sie in Bayern gebaut werden, plötzlich eine Bedrohung der nationalen Sicherheit der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika sind, dann erschreckt uns das.”
München
Samstag, 16. Februar 2019

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
3 years ago

Und ” von ……an”
Von Febreuer 1919 an Schwarz rot weiß sind die färben der Deuschen Flagge.

Elizabet*
Elizabet*
3 years ago

The quiz is a keeper! It was a great way to review what I had just learned… Like looking over notes but more fun. :) I wasn’t adventurous enough to take it before & after, but next time (there will be a next time, right?!) I will!

Bran
Bran
3 years ago

“Von mir aus” würde ich auch auflisten, ich finde den Ausdruck im Alltag sehr hilfreich und als höflichere Option zu “scheisse egal” :)

Clara
Clara
3 years ago

Your explanations are always super, and very didaktisch! And the quiz at the end too. Thank you Emanuel!

Hanka
Hanka
3 years ago

I really like the new quiz format, my only suggestion would be to add some sort of progress bar, to know how many questions there are in total and/or how many questions are left to answer.

Prerna Jayant Palekar
Prerna Jayant Palekar
3 years ago

I appreciate the effort you put in every blog. Love the new format. And thanks for the test. It’s a complete package!

Pia
Pia
3 years ago

Great quiz. I will now read the post

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
3 years ago

Liebe Wonderful Assistant,

Your quiz at the end is brilliant. Not only do the questions really check that I’ve read the post, but give me a good indication of my own progress as well as my standing in relation to all the others that took the test. Kinda puts things in perspective, ‘specially when I bomb it.

Emanuel is lucky to have you. Tell him you want a pay-raise.

MfG
Amerikanerin

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Didn’t bomb this one, but when I do it puts things in perspective. Oh, and I’m not 30 yet – still 29. Jedes Jahr…

Oma Yokum's farm smoked Dogpatch hokum
Oma Yokum's farm smoked Dogpatch hokum
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

hmm,
“praise ain’t short for pay raise”

”p’rai$e”
Ain’t it not been t-ain’ted with the stigma of being non- ”CONTRACT”ual ?

Die Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft u. Hickboniks Verein GmbH

Camille
Camille
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

HIHIHIHIHI