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As a non native speaker, I am unable to wrap my head around with usage of prepositions. Just today in class, my teacher asked the following question from a text in A2 Sprach Training book.

Wer macht Parties in der Freizeit?

(We answered Ute)

Now, my question here is, how is it that the wechsel preposition in is used in Dative context?

This is something which I learned in A1, that if the question answers to "Wo" we must use the preposition in Dative and if the question answers to "Wohin", we must use the preposition in Accusative. (Ich bin im Kino v.s. Ich gehe ins Kino). But the question being asked is neither "Wo" nor "Wohin" but Wer. Why is the preposition used as in der and not as in die ?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

When in is used to give a place or a time as answers to questions with wann or wo you must use the Dative. When it is used to give a direction (as in the answer to the question with wohin) it stands with Accusative.

In the question Wer macht Parties in der Freizeit? the expression in der Freizeit specifies the time, so the Dative is used.

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Oh great! I thought because "Wer" is there, we used Dative. So, prepositions of time/place is dative and directions is accusative. Will this logic apply to every sentence? I don't want to make mistake while writing to my German colleagues, and I really want to start writing e-mails (at least with basic responses) so that I get better soon. – thandasoru Feb 17 '13 at 15:11
there are other prepositions than in where other cases must be used, so although there are tendencies towards certain cases for those categories there are exceptions. The first thing I found is a list of German prepositions on the German Wikipedia ( there might be other better lists out there in the internet – djfun Feb 17 '13 at 15:19
I'd like to add that there are also time configurations that take in + acc... "Wir tanzen in den Mai." The point is that a direction is expressed by acc and a fixed point by dat. no matter whether time or place – Emanuel Feb 17 '13 at 20:44
@Emanuel I didn't understand that example at all. Why is 'Mai' not in dative? How can time be a direction, even in figurative sense? And if there is a possibility of giving an answer to 'wann' in accusative, why make the rule in the first place? And could you please give me the traslation of the "tanzen" sentence; I am not able to wrap my mind around this concept. – Anurag Kalia Mar 20 '13 at 18:10
ok so first of: noone makes rules. Rules in language are but a simplified description of what is. Then: the sentence means something like "We're dancing into Mai" for instance from the 30th of April. And then it is not answering "wann", it is somewhat answering "bis wann". And this is not so different to "bis wohin" which is a direction/destination. And why shouldn't there be a point in time as a destination. Sure, it's abstract but it makes sense to me. Another example would be "Wir feiern ins neue Jahr." or "Wir feiern in meinen Geburtstag rein." ... now what is birthday, anyway? Time? Place – Emanuel Mar 20 '13 at 18:55

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