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Which preposition goes with Aufsatz? Is it über or zu?

Ein Aufsatz über die Kolonialisierung von Namibia?
Ein Aufsatz zu der Kolonialisierung von Namibia?

They seem to be similar but are there any subtle differences between the two.?

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The topic is given with über. – chirlu Oct 8 '13 at 9:48
3  
This question appears to be off-topic because the answer can be easily found in dictionaries or other reference material (e.g., on Wortschatz, über is the most common right neighbour by far). – chirlu Oct 8 '13 at 9:52
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related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/8089/… it may not be so easy to find in some dictionaries. – Takkat Oct 8 '13 at 10:01
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@chirlu: Per an answer below, "both are grammatically correct, but there is a subtle difference." This indicates that the question is not trivial and therefore not off-topic. I added a line to the question about subtle differences. – Tom Au Oct 8 '13 at 22:58
    
In beiden Fällen wäre der Genitiv besser: zur/über die Kolonialisierung Namibias. – user unknown Jun 25 at 19:55
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Both are grammatically correct, but there is a subtle difference:

  • By using über you imply that the essay is covering the whole subject in general. This would be suitable for a descriptive summary aiming at people who are new to the subject.
  • With zu, the essay becomes more like a contribution to the subject. It may contain comments, critiques and own discoveries.

Please note also that zu is commonly fused with the following article:

zu der -> zur
zu dem -> zum
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Ein Aufsatz über can be translated as "an essay over..." That is covering the topic in a "general" mannner.

Ein Aufsatz zu can be translated as "an essay regarding..." That is making a point (or two) about the topic.

Either can be used, but the correct usage depends on the context.

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