Obviously we know the two way prepositions.

Es liegt auf dem Tisch - It is on the table

Es wird auf den Tisch hingelegt - It is being placed on the table

Dative for something that is already in the place of destination. Accusative for something that is traversing towards place of destination.

However for an there seems to be an issue:

Er hat etw an der Wand befestigt

Er klebt das am Tisch fest

This does not comply with the two way prepositional rule, it is not already sticking to the table it is in the process of being stuck on yet it takes dative. Can someone explain why?

  • 1
    It fits with the two-way rule if you consider an der Wand or am Tisch as the location where something is happening. Likewise, ‘Er hängt das an die Wand’ is also valid.
    – Jan
    Nov 2, 2016 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


It depends on what you trying to express. Festkleben is a bit bad example, let's use hängen instead.

Der Angler hängt den Köder an den Haken.

The angler pins the bait on the hook.

Der Köder hängt am Haken.

The bait hangs down from the hook.

So, why not with festkleben. Because it has fest == tight/sticky in it so people frown from involving a movement into the sentence. This can be puzzling to English speakers, because there is a verb to stick for this. Okay, German has befestigen, but that one is a bit highbrow and says nothing about how to do that (as English to stick).

Er klebt den Fuß an den Tisch.

He glues the leg to the table.

Er klebt den Fuß am Tisch fest.

Er befestigt den Fuß am Tisch.

He sticks the leg to the table.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.