When referring to being on holiday any of the following seems possible:

Wir sind über die Feiertage im Urlaub.
Wir sind über die Feiertage in Urlaub.
Wir sind über die Feiertage auf Urlaub.

If we trust Google Ngrams using "im" seems to be quite new. All versions were used the same in the eighties whereas in the seventies and earlier people preferred "auf".

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Is there any different usage or connotation of one over the other variant? Is there any reason that "im" gained so much popularity over the other variants?

  • 8
    The ngram is not suited to prove your assumption, that "im Urlaub sein" gained more popularity. Maybe just other usages of "im Urlaub" increased, like "im Urlaub erlebten wir das und das", "im Urlaub hatten wir schönes Wetter" and so forth. Dec 10, 2011 at 19:20
  • 1
    Well, it also shows a similar trend when searching like this: books.google.com/ngrams/… but I am aware that it does not prove anything. The trend is peculiar however.
    – Takkat
    Dec 10, 2011 at 21:51

7 Answers 7


All three variants are in use, quite common and (according to Duden) correct. I, personally, would not be able to tell a difference, would, however, be (mildly) surprised to hear "auf Urlaub" in the southern parts of Germany.

  • 1
    "Auf Urlaub" sounds quite like "auf Maloche" in my ears. Would never use it
    – tofro
    Jul 5, 2017 at 13:47
  • I had always thought that "auf Urlaub" was most common in the south, near the Austrian border. "Heut kommen d'engerl auf urlaub nach wien "
    – Tom Au
    Jul 6, 2017 at 18:41
  • @TomAu I should make this more precise: in the south western part of Germany.
    – Thomas
    Jul 7, 2017 at 16:46
  • "Auf Urlaub" sounds similar to "auf Kur", which is quite common in southern parts of Germany (Bavaria).
    – EFrank
    Dec 5, 2017 at 12:51

In my perception only "im Urlaub" is commonly in use. The other two variants may be legit. But I don't know anybody saying "in Urlaub" and I would say "auf Urlaub" is just slang.

In my opinion it's always best to say "im Urlaub" without regarding the context.

Nevertheless the Ngrams could be right, I'm too young for the other versions ;)


Just a small addition:

"Auf Urlaub" appears to me to be a construction analogous to "auf Arbeit"/"auf der Arbeit".

Any takers?

  • I live in Northern Germany and I hear "auf der Arbeit" pretty often but I have been told that this is a colloquial Northern German form. The correct standard German form is "bei der Arbeit". I occasionally hear "auf Urlaub" but "im Urlaub" is definitely the form I hear more frequenlty.
    – Giorgio
    Jan 8, 2014 at 15:59

I'm a native speaker from upper-Austria and we say "im Urlaub"(in dem Urlaub) when we are on holiday somewhere. My great-grandmother and grandmother are the only people I've ever heard using "auf Urlaub". When we want to say "We're going on holiday", we use "Wir fahren in Urlaub" or "Wir fahren in den Urlaub". "In Urlaub" as in already being there, seems completely wrong in Upper-Austrian, but I don't know about the Germans. I've also heard of "auf Urlaub" being used as in "going to" but only from North-Germans. So, to sum it up: It really depends on where you live or where you want to go. GL


They mean different things.

Ich bin auf Urlaub. I'm on holidays. When your boss is asking you where Jürgen is, you'd never say er ist im Urlaub -- he is always auf Urlaub.

Ich habe im Urlaub mein Arm gebrochen. I broke my arm in [= during] the holidays. That said, auf dem Urlaub would not necessarily be incorrect.

Wir überquerten die Alpen, als wir in den Urlaub gefahren sind. We crossed the Alps when we were going 'into' the holidays, that is, going to the location. This one has a direction.

  • 1
    "They mean different things." So what does, according to you, "Ich bin im Urlaub" (yes, I would say it this way) mean compared to "Ich bin auf Urlaub"? You only give examples of different prepositions used in different contexts.
    – arne.b
    Jan 7, 2014 at 14:55
  • Ich würde sagen "Jürgen ist im Urlaub". "Auf" Urlaub klingt für mich falsch.
    – Robert
    Jan 7, 2014 at 15:51
  • 4
    "Auf Urlaub" is perfectly fine in Austria (Have we mentioned recently that German is a pluricentric language? :-)
    – Ingmar
    Jan 7, 2014 at 20:59
  • im Urlaub sein
  • in den Urlaub fahren

are the standard expressions nowadays.

  • auf Urlaub fahren
  • auf Urlaub sein

are more old-fashioned and/or regional.


The only correct form is 'auf Urlaub'.

Ich bin auf Urlaub. Ich werde von xx.August bis xx.August auf Urlaub sein. Ich bin in Salzburg auf Urlaub.

But: Ich habe mir im Urlaub meinen Arm gebrochen. Ich fahre im Urlaub nach Salzburg.

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