Latvian Prepositions and Postpositions


What is a Preposition?

A preposition (prievārds) can be defined as a function word which (usually) governs a noun (or pronoun) and forms a prepositional phrase. Here are a few English example sentences which illustrate the use of some prepositions; the preposition is shown in pink, and the rest of the prepositional phrase is in brown:
  1. Robert hid under the bed.
  2. Rita hung the new chandelier above the old table.
  3. Anita is going without you.
  4. After Tuesday Herman will be unemployed.
In these example sentences the preposition comes before (i.e. is 'pre-posed' before) a following noun phrase. The noun phrase can consist of a single noun (e.g. Tuesday), a lone pronoun (e.g. you), or a noun with modifiers (e.g. the bed = article + noun; the old table = article + adjective + noun). A prepositional phrase usually does the work of an adverb or adjective, often expressing a location in place (e.g. under the bed) or time (e.g. after Tuesday).

Latvian Prepositions & Case

Prepositions are invariant particles. In other words (unlike Latvian nouns, verbs, or adjectives), prepositions do not have multiple forms: they always have the same form. In Latvian, however, the nouns or pronouns governed by the preposition are inflected for case. Take a look at the following Latvian sentences which illustrate the use of some prepositions; as above, the preposition is shown in pink, and the rest of the prepositional phrase is in brown:
  1. Roberts paslēpās zem gultas. 'Robert hid under (the) bed.'
  2. Rita pakāra jauno lustru virs vecā galda. 'Rita hung (the) new chandelier above (the) old table'.
  3. Anita ies bez tevis. 'Anita is going without you (singular).'
  4. Pēc otrdienas Hermanis būs bezdarbnieks. 'After Tuesday Herman will be unemployed.'
In each of these cases, the noun or pronoun which is governed by the preposition is in the genitive case. However, not all prepositions require their complement to be in the genitive. Some prepositions require the accusative case. Here are a few examples; as above, the preposition is shown in pink, and the rest of the prepositional phrase is in brown:
  1. Roberts apskrēja ap māju. 'Robert ran around (the) house.'
  2. Rita sēž starp Raimondu un Robertu. 'Rita is sitting between Raymond and Robert'.
  3. Anita staigāja lēnām pa ielu. 'Anita walked slowly along (the) street.'
  4. Hermanis dejoja ar peli. 'Herman was dancing with (a) mouse.'
In each of these cases, the noun in the prepositional phrase is in the accusative case. Finally, there are also prepositions which require the dative case, as shown below: Here is a helpful chart which indicates the case required by a particular preposition:

Case Preposition
genitive aiz 'behind', apakš 'underneath', bez 'without', iz 'out (of)' [quite rare], kopš 'since (a certain time)', no 'from, out of', pēc 'after', pie 'at', pirms 'before (a certain time)', priekš 'before (a certain time); ago', virs 'above', zem 'under'

Also: prepositions ending in -pus indicating location: apakšpus 'below', ārpus 'outside of', augšpus 'above, up', iekšpus 'inside', lejpus 'below, down', otrpus 'on the other side of; beyond, across', šaipus 'on this side (of)', viņpus' on that/the other/the far side', virspus 'above, on';

Note: Some of these are fairly rare; the most common prepositions ending in -pus are: ārpus 'outside of', šaipus 'on this side (of)', and viņpus' on that/the other/the far side'.

dative līdz 'until', ar 'with' (but only in the plural)
accusative ap 'around', ar 'with' (but only in the singular), caur 'through', gar 'along', pa 'along; on', par 'about, with reference to', pār 'across', pret 'opposite, against, towards', starp 'between'

The Preposition uz

The preposition uz is somewhat unusual, in that its complements can be either in the genitive or the accusative case. Take a look at the following example sentences; as above, the preposition is shown in pink, and the rest of the prepositional phrase is in brown:

Genitive case Accusative case
Example sentence translation Example sentence translation
Roberts gulēja uz gultas. Robert lay on (the) bed. Roberts iet uz gultu. Robert is going to bed.
Astronauts lepni stāvēja uz mēness. (The) astronaut proudly stood on (the) moon. Latvija aizsūtīs raķeti uz mēnesi. Latvija will send a rocket to the moon.
Puķu pods stāveja uz skapja. (The) flower pot stood on (top of) (the) cupboard. Rita uzlika puķu podu uz skapi. Rita put (a) flower pot on (i.e. on top of) (the) cupboard.

In every case the distinction is between static position (genitive case) and motion towards (accusative case). Thus, if Robert is already lying on the bed, the word for bed is in the genitive case (gultas). However, if Robert is moving in the direction of the bed, then the word for bed is in the accusative case (gultu). Clear?

Plurals

All of the above example sentences have shown the complements of the preposition in the singular. However, the following examples illustrate plural noun (and pronoun) complements:
  1. Roberts apskrēja ap mājām. 'Robert ran around (the) houses.'
  2. Rita sēdēja starp meitenēm un zēniem. 'Rita sat between (the) girls and (the) boys'.
  3. Anita staigāja lēnām pa ielām. 'Anita walked slowly along (the) streets.'
  4. Hermanis dejoja ar sešām pelēm . 'Herman danced with six mice.'
  5. Roberts paslēpās zem gultām. 'Robert hid under (the) beds.'
  6. Rita pakāra skaistas bildes pie sienām. 'Rita hung (some) beautiful pictures on (the) walls'.
  7. Anita ies bez jums. 'Anita is going without you (plural).'
  8. Pēc vakariņām Hermanis ies staigāt . 'After supper (literally: evenings) Herman will go (for a) walk.'
  9. Ilga gulēja līdz brokastīm. 'Ilga slept until breakfast'. (Note: brokastis 'breakfast' is always plural)
  10. Veci puķu podi stāveja uz skapjiem. 'Old flower pots stood on (top of) (the) cupboards.'
  11. Rita uzlika vecus puķu podus uz skapjiem. 'Rita put old flower pots on (i.e. on top of) (the) cupboards.'
As you can see from these examples, no matter which preposition is used a plural complement is always in the dative case. That makes things much easier to remember, doesn't it?


To continue on, please go to: Postpositions


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This page created and maintained by
A. Steinbergs

Last revised September 19, 2008