In vs. AnWhat's the difference?

Learn the difference between "in" and "an" in German, two prepositions that are often confused but have different meanings and functions.

Prepositions can be tricky in any language, and German is no exception. In particular, the prepositions "in" and "an" can be confusing for learners. In this post, we'll take a closer look at the differences between these two prepositions and when to use them.

How to use in

"In" is used when something is inside a location or enclosed space.

Ich wohne in Berlin.

I live in Berlin.
Das Buch ist in der Tasche.

The book is in the bag.
Die Kinder spielen im Park.

The children are playing in the park.

How to use an

"An" is used when something is at the surface of something or connected to it.

Das Bild hängt an der Wand.

The picture is hanging on the wall.
Da ist jemand an der Tür!

Somebody's at the door!
Das Preisschild klebt noch an dem Spiegel.

The price tag is still stuck to the mirror.

Differences between in and an

When describing location, "in" indicates being inside of something while "an" indicates being attached to the surface of something.

Wo bist du?
Where are you?
Ich bin in der Küche.
I am in the kitchen.
Und wo ist das Bild, das du gekauft hast?
And where is the picture you bought?
Das hängt schon an der Wand!
It's already hanging on the wall!

"In" is used for enclosed spaces while "an" is used for flat surfaces or edges.

Die Blumen sind in der Vase.

The flowers are in the vase.
Die Katze liegt auf dem Teppich.

The cat is lying on the carpet.
Das Telefon ist in meiner Tasche.

The phone is in my pocket.
Das Poster hängt an der Tür.

The poster is hanging on the door.


Understanding the difference between "in" and "an" can take time, but practicing with different examples can make it easier. By learning the proper usage of these two prepositions, you can communicate more accurately in German.

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