Time Word Order
Watch the video below to learn about where to put the time element within a German sentence. If you prefer text, it is below the video. Don't forget to take notes, so you can look back if needed.
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 chapter 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” (night), which requires you to switch to the phrase “in der Nacht” (in the night). 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (the thing being acted upon). 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.
To add to your vocabulary for this lesson, it would be best to add the list of phrases listed below, so you get a much more in depth vocabulary lesson from this.
in einer Woche - in a week
in einer Stunde - in an hour
in einem Jahr - in a year
in den Ferien - on vacation (during the break)
im Sommer - in the summer
dieses Jahr - this year
jede Woche - every week
am Wochenende - on the weekend
übermorgen - the day after tomorrow