The Wikipedia page on “auf” states that you would use it in one context instead of the traditional “bei” or “in,” and separately, “in” and “zu.” Under what conditions would you make the substitution, and why? If you can’t point to any reason in particular, what are some other nouns with which you would use “auf” to mean other prepositions listed above?

Wikipedia page: https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/auf

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    Please add some examples (and do not expect us to follow a Wikipedia link) to understand your question. Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 12:41
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    The Wiktionary formulation is not great. The proposition auf is not used instead of bei, in, zu, but in s sitiuation in which English uses a proposition which more often corresponds to one of these the prepositions. Well, two different languages. Also, auf der Post sounds to me like it is used only regionally.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 13:00
  • With the place St. pauli for example, the locals say "auf St. Pauli" to mean "in that area", because it's on a hill. I'm not sure of that, but it's a current explanation.
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 23:22

1 Answer 1


One specific reason is determining occasion vs. place. It's a gray area, though:

Beim Schützenfest wird reichlich gesoffen. (most likely: it's about the occassion)

Auf dem Schützenfest wird reichlich gesoffen. (most likely: it's about the place)

Same with zu and in, but that's also a gray area:

Ich gehe zur Schule. (most likely: it's about the institution)

Ich gehe in die Schule. (most likely: it's about the building)

  • So would "auf" stress neither the occasion nor the place, and note only that the place is "related" to whatever else is in the sentence? How common is this, replacing "bei," "zu," and "in" with "auf"? Can you only do it with some verbs or only in some situation? Also, can you clarify what you mean by "gray area"? Thanks for your answer!
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 16:21
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    As a learner of English, my second most frustrating experience was prepositions. Because English is fairly strict in their use, while German isn't. (Most frustrating was tenses, same reason.) You could even say Zum Schützenfest wird reichlich gesoffen. and people would understand it's about that occassion. It all depends on dialect. Consider some expression as Unter der Woche wird hier reichlich gesoffen. What should unter der Woche even mean? Answer: It means during the work days of the week.
    – Janka
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 16:38
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    Verbs do not impose restrictions on adverbial expressions, only on prepositional objects. English is rich on phrasal verbs which take a certain preposition for a certain meaning. This isn't what we are talking about. German verbs do not command too many prepositional objects, that's what dative/genitive objects and separable verbs are for in German.
    – Janka
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 16:42
  • @Janka cp. inter
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 23:26

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