Aus vs. Von - What is the difference?

  • My confusion at the moment lies in the difference in the two prepositions, aus and von. Please note that is my main resource for words and phrases, and it shows the following:

    Possible Meanings of Aus

    Possible Meanings of Von

    I’m fairly confident in my ability to use these words properly, but sometimes I have used aus when I should have used von and vice-versa. What is the distinction between these two words, and when should one be used over the other?

    For example:

    Du hast ein Herz aus Gold!

    If I hadn’t memorized the fact that aus should be used in that situation, I would have likely used von.

    More examples:

    Fenster sind nicht aus Metall.

    Additionally, the University of Chemnitz’s website shows the following for the two words:

    Additional Meanings of Aus Additional Meanings of Von

    What is the technical, linguistic explanation for using one over the other?

    I am a german native speaker. When I was learning english I had the same problems with english prepositions. There just is no way to translate them one to one. Learning the correct prepositions is one of the hardest things when learning a new language.

    There's also constant change in language: "Ein Herz von Gold" would have been perfectly acceptable 150 years ago.

  • Emanuel

    Emanuel Correct answer

    7 years ago


    In a local sense, "aus" is the opposite of English "in/into". So it carries the idea of "out of". It is no problem to understand why it is used in context of buildings and stuff you can enter.

    Ich gehe aus dem Haus.

    However, it is not quite so obvious why it would be used for countries and cities. I think in German those are just considered "enterable" and that's all there is to it.

    Ich komme aus Berlin.

    And then there is the material use.

    Der Tisch ist aus Holz.

    Using "von" here would be more logical I suppose since the table is made from a part of the matter that is wood. I guess German sees it as more of an emergence. Just like plants that grow "out of the soil". A wooden table has been "scooped" out of the matter wood. This is just my personal theory but I doubt that there is a better explanation. Use of prepositions is really random sometimes and maybe people just liked "aus" better.


    In a local sense, "von" denotes an origin that you cannot enter. The best example are persons

    Ich komme von meinem Bruder.

    but there are more

    Ich komme von der Reise.

    This "not enterable" idea works fairly well but you will always find examples that do not fit the simple pattern. Best example are brand names.

    Ich komme von Aldi.

    Aldi is a supermarket and so of course it is "enterable", yet, there are several Aldi stores so the actual venue with its door is not what matters. What matters is the chain. As soon as you specify a certain market, you'd use "aus" again.

    Ich komme aus dem Aldi (the one right next to the gas station)

    So as a rule of thumb... "aus" is used to indicate origins that you can enter, that are a material and that are human made geographical entities, "von" is used for origins which cannot be entered ... like people.
    And then there are 1000 exceptions you'll just have to learn.

    actually, as @Robert noted, "von" used to be used for material use. (damn that's many uses)

    @Emanuel I think I have found another exception to your rule in addition to "Aldi." Technically you can "enter" "in the back," but you don't hear anyone saying "aus hinten." It's always von. Am I looking at this correctly?

    @Dustin... "hinten" is like "links" and "rechts" and all the others and has no door. In German you always come "von" those locations. And you are just there "Ich bin links/hinten/vorne..." English is different in that it uses different word combinations sometimes (like "in the back") and different prepositions but "from the left/right, from behind, from the front, from above" are quite similar to how it is done in German. So... just because it is "in" in English doesn't mean that it'll be "in" in German.

    The preposition "aus" is sometimes translated as "procedente" in Spanish, which is a word that can mean "originating from." Knowing that, its use with cities and countries seems rather fitting.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM