Basic German: Your Daily Routine

Some German verbs that you use to describe your daily actions have an unusual construction. They’re the equivalent of reflexive verbs in English. Verbs in this group use a reflexive pronoun like myself or ourselves to emphasize the information about who is carrying out the action of the verb. When you say, “Cats wash themselves very thoroughly,” you’re using the reflexive pronoun themselves together with the verb wash to talk about what cats do.

Another set of verbs you use to describe your daily routine includes separable-prefix verbs and inseparable-prefix verbs. These verbs are similar to English verbs that have two parts, such as look at or get up.

Here’s a list of typical daily routine activities. Some of the verbs in the list are regular, some are reflexive, and some are separable prefix. For the reflexive and separable-prefix verbs, you see a note after the English meaning of the word:

  • aufstehen (ouf-shtey-en) (to get up) (separable prefix)

  • sich duschen (zeeH doohsh-en) (to take a shower) (reflexive)

  • sich anziehen (zeeH ân-tsee-en) (to get dressed) (reflexive/separable prefix)

  • frühstücken (frue-shtuek-en) (to eat breakfast)

  • in die/zur Arbeit gehen (in dee/tsoor âr-bayt gey-en) (to go into/to work)

  • zu Mittag essen (tsooh mit-âk ês-en) (to have lunch)

  • nach Hause kommen (nâH-houz-e kom-en) (to come home)

  • zu Abend essen (tsooh ah-bent ês-en) (to have dinner)

  • fernsehen (fêrn-zey-en) (to watch TV) (separable prefix)

  • den Wecker stellen (deyn vêk-er shtêl-en) (to set the alarm clock)

  • sich ausziehen (zeeH ous-tsee-en) (to get undressed) (reflexive/separable prefix)

  • ins Bett gehen (ins bêt gey-en) (to go to bed)

Use the following sentences to describe your daily routine or someone else’s:

Ich stehe um (7) Uhr auf. (iH shtey-e oom [zee-ben] oohr ouf.) (I get up at [seven] o’clock.)
Ich ziehe mich an. (iH tsee-e meeH ân.) (I get dressed.)
Wir kommen spät nach Hause. (veer kom-en shpait nâH houz-e.) (We’re coming home late.)
Abends sehe ich oft fern. (ah-bents zey-e iH oft fêrn.) (I often watch TV in the evening.)
Sie geht um zehn Uhr ins Bett. (zee geyt oom tseyn oohr ins bêt.) (She goes to bed at ten o’clock.)

Das Wochenende (dâs voH-en-ên-de) (the weekend) is the time to relax, or, expressed in German, sich entspannen (zeeH ênt-shpân-en) (to relax), especially for anyone who has a typical Monday through Friday work routine. On the weekend, you may have a number of chores to catch up on, but you may also get up a little later and have a relaxing breakfast first.

The following is a list of some typical weekend chores and activities. For verbs that are separable-prefix verbs, you see a note in parentheses after the English translation.

  • abwaschen (âp-vâsh-en) (to do the dishes) (separable prefix)

  • das Auto waschen (dâs ou-toh vâsh-en) (to wash the car)

  • einkaufen (ayn-kouf-en) (to shop) (separable prefix)

  • faulenzen (foul-ênts-en) (to lounge around)

  • Freunde einladen (froyn-de ayn-lâd-en) (to invite friends over) (separable prefix)

  • die Hausarbeit machen (dee hous-âr-bayt mâH-en) (to do the housework)

  • im Internet surfen (im Internet [as in English] soorf-en) (to surf the Internet)

  • kochen (koH-en) (to cook)

  • Musik hören (moo-zeek her-en) (to listen to music)

  • saubermachen (zou-ber-mâH-en) (to clean up) (separable prefix)

  • spät aufstehen (shpait ouf-shtey-en) (to get up late) (separable prefix)

  • staubsaugen (shtoup-zoug-en) (to vacuum) (separable prefix)

  • die Wäsche waschen (dee vaish-e vâsh-en) (to do the laundry)

Here are some sentences you can use to talk about what you or other people do on weekends:

Ich lade Freunde ein. (iH -de froyn-de ayn.) (I’m inviting friends over.)
Ich mache die Hausarbeit gern. (iH mâH-e dee hous-âr-bayt gêrn) (I like to do the housework.)
Er macht heute Nachmittag sauber. (êr mâHt hoy-te nâH-mi-tahk zou-ber.) (He’s cleaning up this afternoon.)
Steht sie Sonntags spät auf? (shteyt zee zon-tahks spait ouf?) (Does she get up late on Sundays?)

Until a few years ago, strict laws in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland regulated when stores were allowed to be open, particularly on weekends. On Saturday mornings, people rushed to shop for food because supermarkets closed in the early afternoon, and no stores of any kind were open on Sundays.

Although the regulations for opening and closing hours have been relaxed, people still like to get out early on Saturday to buy fresh Brötchen (brert-Hen) (rolls) from the local bakery. After doing some shopping and a number of household chores on Saturday morning, Germans enjoy taking a long Spaziergang (shpâts-eer-gâng) (walk), Fahrradfahren (fahr-râd-fahr-en) (bicycling), or doing any number of outdoor recreation activities.

Sunday is traditionally a day of rest and a time for families to enjoy a home-cooked meal together at midday, followed by a leisurely stroll. At around 4 p.m., many families share Kaffee und Kuchen (kah-fey oont koohH-en) (coffee and cake) or, for the indulgent, a big dollop of unsweetened Schlagsahne (shlâg-zahn-e) (whipped cream) on top of a slice of homemade Apfelstrudel (âp-fêl-shtrooh-del) (apple strudel). Mmm!

All day on Sundays and on weekdays usually between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and after 10 p.m., certain loud activities, such as mowing the lawn, playing loud music, and doing laundry, are prohibited in accordance with the “quiet time” law.

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