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Mastering the Calendar and Dates in German

Thirty days has September, April, June, and November. You should be happy to know that this little rhyme translates easily into German. But don't get overly confident yet — you still have to figure out the years, too. Getting a handle on how to correctly express dates will be a great help to you when dealing with German travel agencies.

Getting to know the units of the calendar

The following sentences show you how to build the calendar, der Kalender (dehr kâ-lên-der), in German:

  • Ein Jahr hat 12 Monate. (ayn yahr hât tsvuolf moh-nâ-te) (A year has 12 months.)
  • Ein Monat hat 30 oder 31 Tage. (ayn moh-nât hât dry-sîgk oh-der ayn-ûnt-dry-sîgk tah-ge) (A month has 30 or 31 days.)
  • Der Februar hat 28 oder 29 Tage. (dehr feh-brû-ahr hât âHt-ûn-tsvân-tsîgk oh-der noyn-ûn-tsvân-tsîgk tahge) (February has 28 or 29 days.)
  • Eine Woche hat 7 Tage. (ay-ne -He hât zee-bn tah-ge) (A week has 7 days.)

The basic names of the months

The following list shows you all the names of the months. All the months' names are masculine, meaning that their article is der:

  • Januar (-nû-ahr) (January)
  • Februar (feh-brû-ahr) (February)
  • März (mêrts) (March)
  • April (ah-prîl) (April)
  • Mai (my) (May)
  • Juni (yoo-nee) (June)
  • Juli (yoo-lee) (July)
  • August (ow-gûst) (August)
  • September (zêp-têm-ber) (September)
  • Oktober (ôk-toh-ber) (October)
  • November (nô-vêm-ber) (November)
  • Dezember (deh-tsêm-ber) (December)

Describing events in specific months

If something takes place in a particular month, you combine the name of the month with the preposition im:

  • Ich fliege im Januar ab. (îH flee-ge îm -nû-ahr âp) (I'm flying off in January.)
  • Ich fliege im Februar zurück. (îH flee-ge îm feh-brû-ahr tsû-ruuk) (I'm flying back in February.)
  • Im März werde ich zu Hause sein. (îm mêrts vehr-de îH tsû how-ze zyn) (In March, I'll be home.)

Naming specific times in the months

If you need to be somewhat specific about the time of the month, the following phrases help narrow down the field:

  • Anfang Januar (ân-fâng -nû-ahr) (in the beginnig of January)
  • Mitte Februar (-te feh-brû-ahr) (in the middle of February)
  • Ende März (ên-de mêrts) (at the end of March)

Of course, you can substitute any month name after Anfang, Mitte, and Ende:

  • Anfang April fliegen wir nach Berlin. (ân-fâng â-prîl flee-gn veer nahh bêr-leen) (In the beginning of April we'll fly to Berlin.)
  • Ich werde Ende Mai verreisen. (îH vêr-de ên-de my fêr-ry-zen) (I'll go traveling at the end of May.)
  • Herr Behr wird Mitte Februar in Skiurlaub fahren. (hêr behr vîrt -te feh-brû-ahr în shee-ûr-lowp fah-ren) (Mr. Behr will go on a skiing trip in the middle of February.)

Dates

When talking about the date, das Datum (dâs dah-tûm), you need to adjust your way of thinking a little bit. In German, the day always comes first, and the month comes second (see Table 1). Note the period after the numeral identifying it as an ordinal number.

Table 1 German Dates, Long Version

Write

Say

Pronunciation

1. Januar 2000

erster Januar Zweitausend

êrs-ter -nû-ahr tsvy-tow-zênt

10. Juni 1999

zehnter Juni Neunzehnhundertneunundneunzig

tsehn-ter yoo-nee noyn-tsehn-hûn-dêrt-noyn-ûnt-noyn-tsîgk

20. März 1888

zwanzigster März Achtzehnhundertachtundachtzig

tsvân-tsîgk-ster mêrts âH-tsehn-hûn-dêrt âHt-ûnt-âH-tsîgk

As you can see from the last example in Table 1, going back in time to another century is not hard.

That was the long version. And now for the short version, which is popular for both the spoken and the written languages (see Table 2). The day still goes first, and the month goes second. Again, note the periods after the numerals (both the day and month are ordinals).

Table 2 German Dates, Short Version

Write

Say

Pronunciation

1. 1. 2000

erster erster Zweitausend

êrs-ter êrs-ter tsvy-tow-zênt

2. 4. 1999

zweiter vierter Neunzehnhundertneunundneunzig

tsvy-ter feer-ter noyn-tsehn-hûn-dêrt-noyn-ûnt-noyn-tsîgk

3. 5. 1617

dritter fünfter Sechzehnhundertsiebzehn

drî-ter fuunf-ter sêH-tsehn-hûn-dêrt-zeep-tsehn

If you want to find out what today's date is you ask:

Den Wievielten haben wir heute? (dehn vee-feel-ten hah-ben veer hoy-te) (What's today's date?)

The answer will be one of the following:

  • Heute haben wir den . . . (hoy-te hah-ben veer dehn) (Today we have the . . .)
  • Heute ist der . . . (hoy-te îst dehr) (Today is the . . .)

You may hear the name of a year integrated into a sentence in one of two ways. The first, longer way uses the preposition im to create the phrase "im Jahr . . .", and the second, shorter way doesn't. The following sentences show you examples of both ways of doing things:

  • Im Jahr 2000 fährt Herr Diebold in die USA. (îm yahr tsvy-tow-zênt fehrt hêr dee-bôlt în dee oo-ês-ah) (In the year 2000, Mr. Diebold is going to the United States.)
  • 1999 war er in Kanada. (noyn-tsehn-hûn-dêrt-noyn-ûnt-noyn-tsîgk vâr ehr în -nâ-dâ) (In 1999 he was in Canada.)
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