I know that auf and für both indicate purposes but I don't know when to use each of them like we say (according to DWDS) "er spart für ein Auto" or "auf Löwen jagen" but why not "er spart auf ein Auto" and not "für Löwen jagen" what is the difference between "auf" and "für" in these sentence and when do I use each one in purpose sentences

  • 1
    Never learn isolated prepositions. Always learn prepositional phrases. Most prepositions have wide and varied, often contradictory meanings.
    – user52445
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 11:03

1 Answer 1


why not "er spart auf ein Auto"

That's correct as well. It's actually more common than für in this context.

and not "für Löwen jagen"

The problem with für is that it can also tell who gets the result from the action. So if you write für Löwen jagen that means you are hunting so you can feed the lions. In your lion refuge, probably.

„Sie spielen für Zeit.“

This treats Zeit as a proper noun. Either their club or a sponsor.

Sie spielen auf Zeit.

That on the other hand is a common phrase.

  • Another possibility with "jagen" is not to use a preposition: "Ich jage einen Löwen." English "for" is similarly ambiguous, but "on" is not an alternative.
    – RDBury
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 9:54

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