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. 

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.

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).

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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:

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

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 recoverAnd 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.

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!

0%

Take the quiz on "preposition von"

Which statements about the German word “von”are NOT true? (multiple answers)

How would you translate the sentence:
Maria is coming from the bakery.

How would you translate the sentence:
I'm coming from Gucci at the train station.

How would you translate the sentence:
“The stomach ache comes from the old pizza, which you ate."

Which of the following sentences is WRONG?

Which of the following verb-preposition combos are fixed, so you need “von” to form a proper sentence? (multiple answers)

How would you translate the sentence:
“What do I get?/What's in it for me?”

How would you translate the sentence:
“Have you recovered from the marathon?”

How would you translate:
“What are your thoughts (opinion) on the new boss?"
"What do you think about the new boss?”

How would you translate:
“I was convinced of that by you.”?

Your score is

The average score is 65%

for members :)

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Elsa
Elsa

Hiya,
Typos first:
“the most common verbs “want” von” (you forgot a “that”, i.e. “verbs that want…”
“The idea of from me” (is from me)
“Boah, my skin is so dry” (no typo, but doesn’t match the German phrase)
“We’ll two if “Emanuel likes to ramble” counts as a reason” (“Well, two if Emanuel…)
“the reason I didn’t just say von means from is that the third language learner’s commandment” (now you have an extra “that”!)
“But yeah, if have any questions” (you missed the “you”)
And that’s all the corrections von mir!

I got the answers right!!

And I have a question for you: do we say “Ich komm von der Arbeit” or “aus der Arbeit” when I’ve finished a working day and someone asks me where I’m coming from? I’m confused about this because I’ve seen both versions!
Bis bald!

Elsa
Elsa

Komme, not komm, I make lots of typos :)

crittermonster
crittermonster

Hey, just to throw another “hey, German and English really *are* relatives!” log on the fire: if you translate “von” as “of” (which works; it’s an origin, as in: Sheriff OF Nottingham, Lawrence OF Arabia, Mary, Queen OF Scots) then all your preposition-verb combos have a word-for-word English translation:

erzählen von – tell of. “Tell me, Bard, of the pact between the wicked dragon and the ogre king.”

reden von – talk of. “We talked of many things…of ships and shoes and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings.” (from a poem by Lewis Carroll)

wissen von – know of. “Any booby traps in here?” “Not that I know of.”

denken von – think of. “Won’t someone please think of something other than the children?!?!”

träumen von* – dream of. “I dream of you every night, Thomas the Unicorn.”

schwärmen von* – to be a huge fan of. (although this is a word I’m not 100% sure we have an equivalent OF)

halten von* – think of. “What do you think of my sexy new beer gut?”

Abgasstufe Es-Zett
Abgasstufe Es-Zett

Thema: 99%
sort-almost but not quite = quasi

The Germans call it “quasi”
It’s their “like & like yahh know.”
Every time I hear that I become unsettled and quasi “unsaddled”!

Floating on a cloud (9). Germans float mostly on Wolke 7. (Google Vanessa Mai Videos “Wolke 7”)
Walking on air. Probably the 3 better from my list.
Head in the clouds.

Head over heels.
Wild – crazy-mad- about.
Totally blown away.
All are slang
and-
They izz HAY! :+)
like , yah know-

Jill
Jill

Love the quiz after to reinforce what we have (or in my case have not) learned. I studied German at high school some 45 years ago so am pretty happy with my 6/10. The old pizza question threw me – off to find out why pizza had ‘der’.

Jill
Jill

Me again – regarding my ‘old pizza’ question – if I say “aus, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu – immer mit dem Dativ – dem, der, den” am I on the right track? :)

yargila
yargila

Hi Emmanuel,
Thanks! Clear post as ever apart from a couple of von’s have mutated into vor in the text…

Top 15 best “vor” combinations with verbs
this notion of a figurative point of origin can whole group of vor combos. Well, the only group of vor-combos to be exact

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin

Personally, I prefer “Monkey back guarantees” – why get my money back when I can have a monkey instead?

As for von as a cause – that’s where the Adventkalender example of the pants shrinking “von” Christmas, also: due to too much Chrissy food. Nicht Wahr?

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin

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

Pia
Pia

Great quiz. I will now read the post

Prerna Jayant Palekar
Prerna Jayant Palekar

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

Hanka
Hanka

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.

Clara
Clara

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

Bran
Bran

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

Elizabet*
Elizabet*

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!

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri

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

Barbara
Barbara

Luurve the test!

Ding Dong !! A VON calling!!
Ding Dong !! A VON calling!!

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

Pentatomidae
Pentatomidae

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.

Mjk

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

Tom
Tom

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!

rader_b
rader_b

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.

dirron
dirron

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