German Word Order with Time

    In this Beginner German lesson you will learn the German word order rules with time. This lesson will expand upon what we learned last week about telling time in German to include some more complicated ways of time telling. I will also show you a bit about how to use these time things in sentences. This includes where to put the time element and some new vocabulary about parts of the day.

    This lesson is a part of Herr Antrim’s new e-book “Beginner German with Herr Antrim“. Within the e-book, this lesson includes a worksheet and answer key to practice the skills you are about to learn.

    You can also get the extra materials for this lesson about word order with time elements in German sentences 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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    Telling Time: half hours

    Let’s start with the time telling things I left out of the last lesson. In German, you don’t always have to give the precise minutes and hours of the day. You can split the hours into quarters and halves like you do in English. Unlike in English, however, the German phrase “halb vier” doesn’t translate as “half past four”, but instead “half until four”. This is a bit disorienting at first, but is quite simple once you understand it. Here are a few examples to help you get acclimated to this idea.

    Beginner German with Herr Antrim

    halb sechs – 5:30
    halb fünfzehn – 14:30 (2:30 pm)
    halb eins – 12:30
    halb zehn – 9:30

    halb + vor & nach

    A strange version of this would include the use of “vor” or “nach” and a number of minutes, usually 5 or 10. This requires you to do a quick math problem in your head if you are an English native speaker. “fünf vor halb sieben” for example would translate literally as “5 til half of seven”. “halb sieben” is 6:30. Fünf Minuten before that is sechs Uhr fünfundzwanzig (6:25), so fünf vor halb sieben is actually 6:25. Here are a few more examples of this complicated mess.

    fünf vor halb neun – 8:25
    fünf nach halb vier – 3:35
    zehn vor halb elf – 10:20
    zehn nach halb dreizehn – 12:40

    Telling Time: quarter hours

    Just like in English you can use quarter hours to say it is 15 minutes before or after the hour. Simply use “vor” or “nach” like we did in all of the other examples with the word “Viertel”, which is German for quarter.

    Viertel vor drei – 2:45
    Viertel nach acht – 8:15
    Viertel vor zehn – 9:45
    Viertel nach fünf – 5:15

    Viertel without vor or nach

    There are also two weird ways to use the word “Viertel”. If you leave out the words “vor” or “nach”, you have a similar math question to that, which we did with “halb”. In these examples, the phrase becomes a quarter of the way towards a particular hour. For example:

    Viertel elf – 10:15
    Viertel neun – 8:15

    You can also say “drei Viertel”, which is three quarters of the way towards the next hour. This is by far the most confusing time expression my students encounter. Here are a few examples of it.

    drei Viertel vier – 3:45
    drei Viertel sieben – 6:45

    Parts of the Day

    Now that we have all of the time expressions out of the way, you can start classifying the times of the day into parts of the day. I mentioned in the previous lesson that there is no obligatory AM or PM in German, as there is in English. You can, however, classify the time of the day like this if you want. The words you need are “Morgen” (morning), “Mittag” (midday), “Nachmittag” (afternoon), “Abend” (evening) and “Nacht” (night). For most of these, you can add “am” in front of them to mean “in the”. The only exception to that is “Nacht”, which requires you to switch to the phrase “in der Nacht”. Here are a few examples of how to use these expressions in a sentence.

    Es ist zehn Uhr am Morgen.
    It is ten o’clock in the morning.

    Es ist zwölf Uhr am Mittag.
    It is twelve o’clock in midday.

    Es ist zwei Uhr am Nachmittag.
    It is two o’clock in the afternoon.

    Es ist sechs Uhr am Abend.
    It is six o’clock in the evening.

    Es ist zehn Uhr in der Nacht.
    It is ten o’clock at night.

    Parts of the Day without Prepositions

    You can use these words without a preposition (that’s what “am” and “in” are doing in those other sentences), if you add an “S”. If you use one of these words with an “S” at the end of it, it is no longer capitalized, as it is technically no longer a noun. If you use it with a specific time of the day, the meaning doesn’t change from what it was in the previous examples.

    Es ist zehn Uhr morgens.
    It is ten o’clock in the morning.

    Es ist zwölf Uhr mittags.
    It is twelve o’clock in the midday.

    Es ist zwei Uhr nachmittags.
    It is two o’clock in the afternoon.

    Parts of the Day without Specific Time

    If you use these versions without a specific time of day, it becomes a generalization about that part of the day. These words indicate repeated actions during those times of the day. In both German and English, you can start your sentence with these words. If you do that, you need to move the subject to the other side of the verb. I think of it as having the subject and verb attached with a string. They have to be next to each other, so if the first spot is taken by something else, in this case the time, the subject has to move to the other side. Unlike in English, however, you don’t need a comma between the time and the verb.

    Morgens esse ich Brötchen mit Marmelade.
    Mornings, I eat rolls with jam.

    Mittags fahre ich zur Uni.
    Middays, I drive to the university.

    Nachmittags schlafe ich.
    Afternoons, I sleep.

    Abends lese ich.
    Evenings, I read.

    Nachts spiele ich Fortnite.
    Nights, I play Fortnite.

    Days of the Week

    You can use both of these options with the days of the week, too. You can use them with “am” to indicate a specific Monday, Tuesday or other day of the week or you can use the days with an “S” at the end of the word to indicate a recurring action. . The same capitalization rules as before apply. If there is an “S” at the end of the word, it is not capitalized.

    Montags arbeite ich nicht gern.
    Mondays, I don’t like to work.

    Am Dienstag schreibt er einen Brief.
    On Tuesday, he is writing a letter.

    Was machst du am Mittwoch?
    What are you doing on Wednesday?

    Wir suchen donnerstags neue Bücher.
    We look Thursdays for new books.

    Am Freitag rede ich mit meinem Chef.
    On Friday, I am talking with my boss.

    Samstags fühlt er am besten.
    Saturdays, he feels the best.

    Das Restaurant bietet sonnabends Rinderbraten an.
    The restaurant offers roast beef on Saturdays.

    Ich besuche am Sonntag eine Kirche.
    I am attending a church on Sunday.

    German Word Order Basics with Time & Direct Objects

    If you didn’t pick up on it in the previous sentences, when you put the time element behind the verb, it usually precedes the direct object. To show you a few more of these, I’ll introduce you to a few other time words that I haven’t used yet.

    Ich esse heute Pizza.
    I am eating pizza today.

    Ich esse morgen eine Bratwurst.
    I am eating a bratwurst tomorrow.

    Wir sehen heute Abend einen Film.
    We are watching a film tonight.

    Bringst du morgen früh Kaffee?
    Are you bringing coffee tomorrow morning?

    Meine Kinder spielen diese Woche Fußball.
    My children are playing soccer this week.

    Meine Familie reist nächsten Monat nach Chicago.
    My family is traveling to Chicago next month.

    Mein Bruder trinkt jeden Tag zwei Liter Wasser.
    My brother drinks two liters of water every day.

    I think we have had enough example sentences for today, so your assignment is to take three of the words or word phrases to which I am about to introduce you and write three example sentences using them. I’ll correct your sentences in the comments.

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    Herr Antrim

    Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites.