Sie wartet auf den Aufzug.

has an accusative and means

She is not on the elevator and is waiting for it to arrive.

Would the dative then mean

She is inside of the elevator waiting?

Sie wartet auf dem Aufzug.

  • 2
    Correct dative preposition would be: Sie wartet in dem Aufzug. unless the meaning should be She's sitting on the top of the elevator and is waiting for it to arrive (at a particular floor). Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


There is a misconception here. There is

auf etwas/jemanden warten (to wait for something/someone)

which takes an Akkusativ object and there is just

warten (to wait)

You can wait at different locations. Inside a lift (in einem Aufzug) , in front of a bakery ( (vor einer Bäckerei), on top of a roof (auf einem Dach), next to a tree (neben einem Baum). All those locations are expressed by a preposition followed by a Dativ object.

Of course you can also wait for a lift on top of it:

Sie wartete auf dem Aufzug auf den Aufzug.

(How much sense that makes is left as an exercise for the reader, but this is at least grammatically correct.)

  • I think I remember this from German at school. Is warten auf a relationship of valency and if so does that mean something like, auf takes a more general sense of on when it is not in a valency with another word, in warten auf auf means for. Maybe another example would be zu Weihnactehn, for Christmas, where zu in its default sense means to?
    – tom
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 15:33

There are some locations that require auf, but afaik an elevator is not one of them. The first example uses the slightly idiomatic expression auf etwas warten which translates as a whole as "to await something" (not to be confused with aufwarten). So just think of the *Sie wartet auf den ..." part as a single unit which means "She's awaiting ..." and the elevator is just the thing she happens to be awaiting, nothing to do with where she is in relation to the elevator. There have been several threads posted here on two-way prepositions and the general rule is, if it involves action in a location then you use the dative, and if it involves motion somehow then you use the accusative. You'd use a preposition+dative with warten if you're trying to say where the waiting is taking place so it would be Sie wartet im Aufzug, if that's what you're getting at. Waiting does not involve motion so the only way it could involve a preposition+accusative is in the previous, idiomatic sense.

  • I fail to see what this answer adds to the existing one. Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 11:21

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