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Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur des Englisch-Magazins Business Spotlight.
Mehr Englisch im Netz: www.business-spotlight.de
Es ist immer das Gleiche nach der Landung: Der deutsche Flugkapitän heißt die Passagiere willkommen - und Briten und Amis fangen an zu grinsen. Kein Wunder, denn englische Präpositionen sind ganz schön tricky.
"Hello Jane. I will meet you on the airport tomorrow. You said your plane arrives in Düsseldorf at 15.30, so I shall be there until 15.00 at the latest. I will be driving over Frankfurt, but there shouldn't be too much traffic to this time. So I should be there on good time. I look forward to welcoming you in Germany."

Imagine you had sent this message by e-mail to an English-speaking business partner. What do you think her reaction would be? My guess is that she would be very impressed by your English and she would wish that her German were half as good. "I really must learn a foreign language", she would probably say to herself.

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At the same time, Jane might have noticed that a few things didn't sound quite the way that she would have said them. For example:
- Jane would have said "at the airport" rather than "on the airport".
- She would have said "via Frankfurt" rather than "over Frankfurt", which might have made her smile.
- Jane would have said "at this time", not "to this time".
- She would have said "in good time" or "on time" rather than "on good time"

Jane might also have noticed that it sounds strange to say "welcoming you in Germany". However, she would probably remember that the last time she flew to Germany, the pilot said "welcome in Berlin" when they landed, rather than "welcome to Berlin". "That must be a typical German mistake", Jane would think to herself. "Yes, that's right. Willkommen in Berlin is how they greeted me in German.

The point, however, is that most mis?takes with prepositions are of little significance in terms of effective international communication. There is one mistake that really might have confused Jane. Why, if her plane doesn't arrive until 15.30, did you say that you would be there "until 15.00 at the latest"? Why would you leave again half an hour before her plane arrives? What you meant, of course, was that you would be there "by 15.00 at the latest". The confusion came from the fact that the German word bis translates into English as both "by" and "until", but with very different meanings:

1. Ich muss den Bericht bis (spätestens) Montag schreiben. = I have to write the report by Monday.
2. Ich bleibe (genau) bis Montag in München. = I'm staying in Munich until Monday.

Other preposition mistakes are unlikely to cause confusion, although they may create an amusing picture, just as "driving over Frankfurt" did. For example, if someone is not in their office, you say he is "not at his desk" rather than "not on his desk". On the other hand, you are "on the phone" not "at the phone". And there is a big difference between being "at work" (bei der Arbeit) and "in work" (in Beschäftigung)

Many prepositional phrases in English simply have to be learned, because they use different prepositions to those in German. For example:
- over lunch (beim Mittagessen)
- under discussion (im Gespräch)
- for one thing ... (zum einen ...)
- on offer (im Angebot)
- on the one hand ... on the other hand (einerseits ... andererseits)
- in the short/long run (kurzfristig/lang- fristig)
- in my opinion (meiner Meinung nach).

Finally, here is a short test of some common prepositions. The answers are at the bottom of the page.
1. My son is currently ___ university.
2. I've been working in Frankfurt ___ three years.
3. Sales increased ___ 10 per cent, from $40,000 to $44,000.
4. That is an increase ___ 10 per cent.
5. I travel to work ___ car.
6. Let's meet ___ the trade fair.
7. You can reach me ___ 0139-768098333.
8. He is ___ holiday this week.
9. What did you do ___ the weekend?
10. We discussed ___ the project.

Answers
1. at; 2. for; 3. by; 4. of; 5. by; 6. at; 7. on; 8. on ; 9. at (British English), on (American English); 10. No preposition needed.
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 16.11.2004