Read & Write Dates in German
Today I’m going to explain to you how to read and write dates in German. I’m not talking about going out with a person of romantic interest. Nor am I talking about the awful fruit. This lesson is about the kind of dates you see on calendars and invitations. How do you say them in German and how do you write them? I’ve got all the answers in this lesson.
You can also get the extra materials for this lesson about reading and writing dates in German including a worksheet with answer key and mp3 files along with the text guide to help you practice your pronunciation by clicking here.
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Reading & Writing German Dates: Ordinal Numbers
The first step in this process is learning about ordinal numbers. Ordinal numbers are things like “first”, “second”, “third” and so on. These are obviously not exclusive to reading and writing German dates, so I’ll start with how to form them outside of their association with dates.
For the most part, ordinal numbers are the same as the normal numbers (called cardinal numbers), but you add -te to the end of the number. Technically speaking the -t- or -st- transforms the cardinal number (normal counting number) into an ordinal number (number defining an order of things or events) and the -e at the end is an adjective ending that has to match its use (case and gender), but since you are beginners, I’m going to show you how to use it in specific circumstances and avoid the real adjective ending lesson for now. There are a few exceptions to the add -t or -st and -e rule, so I’ll go through the list up to the 13th for a start.
German Ordinal Numbers 1st – 13th
erste – 1st
zweite – 2nd
dritte – 3rd
vierte – 4th
fünfte – 5th
sechste – 6th
siebte – 7th
achte – 8th
neunte – 9th
zehnte – 10th
elfte – 11th
zwölfte – 12th
dreizehnte – 13th
German Ordinal Numbers 13th – 19th
Since all of the numbers from 13 to 19 end with -zehn, you have the same pattern for all of them.
dreizehnte – 13th
vierzehnte – 14th
fünfzehnte – 15th
sechzehnte – 16th
siebzehnte – 17th
achtzehnte – 18th
neunzehnte – 19th
German Ordinal Numbers 19th – 29th
After 19, the numbers end with -zwanzig and in order to make them into ordinal numbers, you add -ste.
zwanzigste – 20th
einundzwanzigste – 21st
zweiundzwanzigste – 22nd
dreiundzwanzigste – 23rd
vierundzwanzigste – 24th
fünfundzwanzigste – 25th
sechsundzwanzigste – 26th
siebenundzwanzigste – 27th
achtundzwanzigste – 28th
neunundzwanzigste – 29th
German Ordinal Numbers 30th and Beyond
Numbers after 29 follow the same pattern by adding -ste to the end. This includes not only the two numbers I’ll show you for the purposes of dates, but also every number up to 100. It should be mentioned that the word for 100th does not include a pronunciation-aiding -e like you saw with regular verb conjugation. So the 100th is hundertste. The only two numbers you need with dates after 29 are as follows
dreißigste – 30th
einunddreißigste – 31st
German Dates are Masculine
If you want to read or write the date in German, you can form your sentence similarly to what you do in English. Keep in mind that dates are masculine, so everything uses “der” or a variant thereof. For example:
Heute ist der elfte Februar.
Today is the eleventh of February.
Morgen ist der zwölfte Februar.
Tomorrow is the twelfth of February.
Übermorgen ist der dreizehnte Februar.
The day after tomorrow is the thirteenth of February.
Der vierte Juli ist ein Feiertag in den USA.
The fourth of July is a holiday in the USA.
Der dritte Oktober ist für Deutschland ähnlich.
The third of October is similar for Germany.
Writing Dates in German
When writing specific dates in German, the order is slightly different from the order used in the USA. For those familiar with British English, there is no difference. In America, we usually write dates with the month first then the day and finally the year. In British English and in German and pretty much everywhere in the world except in the USA, we write the day first, then the month and finally the year. This is just another example of Americans being unique like when we use of feet and inches instead of meters and centimeters. Also, Germans write dates with periods between the day, month and year, whereas English speakers generally write them with slash marks or hyphens, although it is acceptable to write English dates with periods between the numbers. Here are some historical dates and how to read them in German and American English.
am + Ordinal Number = on the #
If you want to say “on the” followed by a date in German, you use the preposition “an” plus “dem” and then the ordinal number with an -n at the end. “An” and “dem” are almost always shortened to “am”. Here are a few examples of that plus the writing rules from the previous paragraph.
30.1.1974 – der dreißigste Januar neunzehnhundertvierundsiebzig
January 30, 1974 – 1/30/1975
Am dreißigsten Ersten neunzehnhundertvierundsiebzig wurde Christian Bale geboren.
On the 30th of January (the first month) 1974, Christian Bale was born.
3.3.1847 – der dritte März achtzehnhundertsiebenundvierzig
March 3, 1847 – 3/3/1847
Am dritten Dritten achtzehnhundertsiebenundvierzig wurde Alexander Graham Bell geboren.
On the 3rd of March (the third month) 1847, Alexander Graham Bell was born.
3.10.1990 – der dritte Oktober neunzehnhundertneunzig
October 3, 1990 – 10/3/1990
Am dritten Zehnten feiern die Deutschen Tag der Deutschen Einheit.
On the 3rd of October (the 10th month), Germans celebrate Day of German Unity.
No “in” with Years
In English when we say something happened in a particular year, we use “in” before the year. In German this preposition is not only not necessary, but is actually incorrect to be included. Pay attention to the difference in the translation for each of the following examples.
2010 habe ich meine Frau geheiratet.
In 2010 I married my wife.
2012 wurde meine Tochter geboren.
In 2012 my daughter was born.
2016 wurde mein Sohn geboren.
In 2016 my son was born.
Months in German
Now you have most of the parts you need in order to read, write and say dates in German. The only part left is the names of the months in German. Here they are:
Januar – January
Februar – February
März – March
April – April
Mai – May
Juni – June
Juli – July
August – August
September – September
Oktober – October
November – November
Dezember – December
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