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I was sorting out old magazines in the garage that needed to be thrown out. On the way out I bumped my elbow on the door. What preposition do I use here? Gegen or auf etwas stoßen?
Or does it not matter? What is the difference between the two?

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3 Answers 3

  • "auf etwas stoßen" is used if you find/discover/explore something (e.g. minerals, resources)

    Ich bin auf Bodenschätze gestoßen.

  • "gegen etwas stoßen" is used if you collide with something (e.g. doors/tables/stones/windows)

    Er ist gegen die Tür gestoßen.

  • "an etwas stoßen" is used if you collide with something either physically (table) or ideologically (opinion, thought)

    Sie hat sich an dem Tisch gestoßen.
    Ich habe mich an seinem Gedanken gestoßen.

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So i cannot use either one in this context? –  DerPolyglott33 Apr 21 at 20:24
    
If you hit a diamond with your elbow, probably both would work. But with two different meanings. –  Franz Ebner Apr 21 at 20:27
    
What are they?? –  DerPolyglott33 Apr 21 at 20:28
1  
@DerPolyglott33: For hitting the door, you use the second: "Ich bin mit dem Ellbogen gegen die Tür gestossen". If the doorknob is made of a diamond, you'd probably say "Ich bin auf einen Diamanten gestossen". –  PMF Apr 22 at 6:51

"Sich an etwas stoßen" is used as well in German.

If you hit something, you use "an" and "gegen" (to crash into / to collide with something). You physically hit it and sometimes it hurts.

It's "auf" if you find / discover / explore something (see the other answer). This does not only apply to minerals but also in case you rediscover old stuff that you have you missed or lost, or find something that is interesting.

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Franz Ebner has the basics down.

"An etwas stoßen" works (like "gegen etwas stoßen") for bumping into something; If you use it reflexively (like "sich an etwas stoßen") means to bump into something (literally) or to be bothered by something (figuratively).

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This is actually not accurate. *Ich stoße den Ellebogen an der Tür is ungrammatical in SHG. You have to use the reflexive pronoun to get this reading: Ich stoße *mir* den Ellenbogen an der Tür, or to change the object's case: Ich stoße den Ellenbogen an/gegen *die* Tür. The latter variant induces a merely active reading, while the reflexive variant implies an incidental action. In neither cases however you get the reading that i am bothered by the ellbow nor the door (at least not semantically)… –  Lupino Apr 21 at 23:15
    
Good point. I've updated my answer to explain that reflexive can be both, literal and figurative. –  Robert Apr 22 at 3:06

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