What is the difference between »in« and »im«?

What is the difference between »in« and »im«?

When you are reading texts in German or listen to people speaking, you will come across two tiny little words that sound very similar and almost look the same: »in« and »im«. Have you been wondering what the difference is?

in

The preposition »in« is used pretty much the same way as in English:

Ich lebe in Berlin. = I live in Berlin.

Lebst du in Deutschland? = Do you live in Germany?

im

Actually, »im« consists of two words: in + dem.

Now: there is a question that you often have to ask yourself when you form a sentence in German: are we speaking about

a. where something or somebody is (the position) or
b. where something or somebody is moving to (a movement):

In the case of (b), we speak about the movement of a person or an object: to use a fancy grammatical term, we have to use Accusative, which means that the articles change

from der to den,
(die stays die),
(das stays das).

Wohin gehst du? (Where are you going to?)
Ich gehe …
(der Keller) … in den Keller.
(die Küche) … in die Küche.
(das Badezimmer)… in das Badezimmer.

In the case of (a), we speak about the position of a person or an object: to use another fancy grammatical term, we have to use Dative, which means that the articles change …

…from der to dem,
… from die to der and
… from das to dem.

Wo bist du? (Where are you?)
Ich bin …
(der Keller) in dem (=im) Keller.
(die Küche) … in der Küche.
(das Badezimmer) … in dem Badezimmer.

To answer the question from above: »im« is a form of »in« we have to use when

  • we would like to speak about the position of person or an object
  • in regards to a masculine noun, such as „der Keller“
  • Wo bist du? In dem Keller = im Keller
  • in + dem = im.

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