I have a question regarding the prepositions "auf" and "an":

If I want to say "the glasses are on your face", would it be Die Brille ist *auf deinem Gesicht or *an* deinem Gesicht?

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  • Both options sound rather weird to me.
    – Carsten S
    Jul 2, 2020 at 8:31
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    The issue here is that you cannot reduce this topic to a simple rule of when to use what. You need to know the common usage of complete terms, such as "Sie hatte eine Brille auf der Nase" or "Die Brille steht ihr gut zu Gesicht". This includes also a feeling for terms that are unusual. E.g. "Sie hat eine Brille im/am/etc. Gesicht" is simply a sentence that would not be used. - An expression that sounds acceptable to me would be "Sie trug eine Brille im Gesicht", but anyway it sounds a bit strange and would occur rather in very old fiction, perhaps. Jul 2, 2020 at 10:16
  • i agree with Casten. both sound weird. You would rather say "Er trägt eine Brille" oder "Er ist Brillenträger"
    – Welcor
    Jul 2, 2020 at 15:44

3 Answers 3


This is a brilliant question, because logic does not help here. For example, it is

das Bild an der Wand


die Brille auf dem (or better im) Gesicht
(Auf is rather used when saying that the glasses are on the nose.)

In both cases an object (Bild, Brille) is attached to a surface (Wand, Gesicht), and it is a matter of perspective, whether you consider the object to be located "exactly on", "close to" or "near" the surface. Still, in both cases different prepositions are used. The only rule that I see is: usage.

  • for the comparison Bild/Brille I would use an der Wand vs. im Gesicht. Which leaves the problem that neither auf nor an is used... that would require an example like "Bild an die Wand hängen" vs. "Die Brille auf die Nase setzen". I just have no clue about exact rules for prepositions... Jul 2, 2020 at 10:16
  • I understand that the sentence is very odd, the thing is that this was part of a grammar exercise I was doing. It showed different pictures with objects and the goal was to say where these objects were. The last picture was precisely a pair of glasses on someone's face. In the end I chose to write "Die Brille ist im Gesicht" :). Jul 12, 2020 at 23:59

You would say auf deinem Gesicht. An deinem Gesicht would mean that it is located (probably leaning or hanging) near the face. I can only think of rare circumstances where that would be the case.

A more natural expression would read

Die Brille ist auf deiner Nase.


That neither auf nor am are really good with Brille and Gesicht has already been discussed.

I have one thing to add to @Björn's answer, which is totally correct for standard German German: pronoun usage varies regionally even in standard language. For example, in Austrian, it would be totally correct to say and write

Das Bild hängt auf der Wand.

with an der Wand sounding rather unidiomatic (not wrong, but probably marking you as German), while

Die Brille liegt am Tisch.


Die Brille liegt auf dem Tisch.

are both good with some tendency the first, although, as far as I understand, standard German German ascribes very different meanings to auf der Wand and am Tisch.

  • O, that's interesting. Especially, the first sentence sounds weird to my German-German ears. Jul 3, 2020 at 16:16
  • Yeah, I have learned about that particular phenomenon just a year ago. Pronoun usage is so deeply built into the cognitive concepts system that you such things yourself much less than lexical differences. Jul 3, 2020 at 16:27

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