German Phrases For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

When making plans, appointments, and travel arrangements in German-speaking countries, you need to be able to state dates and other calendar terms in, well, German. Understanding the days of the week, the months of the year, and how to tell time in German can help you to avoid confusion.

Calendar terms

The German calendar week begins with Monday unless otherwise stated. The German days of the week (Tage der Woche), which are all masculine, are

Montag (mohn-tahgk) (Monday)
Dienstag (deens-tahgk) (Tuesday)
Mittwoch (mît-vôH) (Wednesday)
Donnerstag (dônrs-tahgk) (Thursday)
Freitag (fry-tâgk) (Friday)
Samstag (zâmss-tahgk) (Saturday)
Sonntag (zôn-tahgk) (Sunday)

There are actually two different words for Saturday depending on where you happen to be. In Austria, Switzerland and most of Germany, it is Samstag. However, in eastern German and in parts of northern German, they say Sonnabend (zôn-ah-bênt) (literally: Sunday eve.)

In German, the months of the year (Monaten des Jahres) look almost the same as English.

Januar (January)
Februar (February)
März (mêrts) (March)
April (April)
Mai (my) (May)
Juni (yoo-nee) (June)
Juli (yoo-lee) (July)
August (August)
September (zêp-têm-ber) (September)
Oktober (ôk-toh-ber) (October)
November (November)
Dezember (deh-tsêm-ber) (December)

When giving a date in German, you state the number as an ordinal, just like English. The numbers from 0 to 19 end in –te to form ordinals like zehnte (10th). Note that there are three irregular formations: erste (1st), dritte (3rd), and siebte (7th). The numbers from 20 and higher end in –ste, like zwanzigste (20th).

You can use the following phrases when discussing dates in German.

  • der zweite Februar (February 2nd)

  • der dreiundzwanzigste Juli (July 23rd)

  • der erste November (November 1st)

  • Welchen Tag haben wir heute? (What day is today?)

  • Heute ist Freitag. (Today is Friday.)

  • Der Wievielte ist heute? (What's today's date?)

  • Heute ist der dritte Mai. (Today is the third of May.)

Telling time

The time of day can be described in general terms or specific times. You can use the following words to describe the general time of day.

der Morgen (morning)
der Nachmittag (afternoon)
der Abend (evening)
die Nacht (night)
der Tag (day)
der Mittag (noon)
die Mitternacht (midnight)
heute (today)
gestern (yesterday)
morgen (tomorrow)

When you want to know a specific time of day, you can ask Wie viel Uhr ist es? (What time is it?). There is no a.m. or p.m. in German. They use a 24-hour clock, so, 4 p.m. would be seize heures (16 hours). To express time between the hours, use the following terms to break things down.

die Zeit (time)
die Stunde(n) (hour)
die Minute(n) (minute)
die Sekunde(n) (second)
halb (half)
Viertel (quarter)
Nach (after [as in Es ist zehn nach zwei (It's ten after two)])
Vor (before [as in Zehn vor elf (It's ten til 11)])

When expressing the exact time, use Uhr for the English "O'clock."

You can use the following phrases as a guide when talking about time in German.

  • Wissen Sie, wie viel Uhr es ist? (Do you know what time it is?)

  • Wie viel Uhr ist es? (What time is it?)

  • Es ist ein Uhr. (It's 1 a.m.)

  • Es ist Viertel nach vier. (It's 4:15 a.m.)

  • Es ist siebzehn Uhr dreißig. (It's 5:30 p.m.)

  • Es ist dreiundzwanzig Uhr fünfundvierzig. (It's 11:45 p.m.)

  • Haben Sie ein paar Minuten Zeit? (Do you have a couple of minutes to spare?)

  • Um wie viel Uhr fahren Sie ab? (What time do you leave?)

  • In zwei Stunden. (In two hours.)

  • Es ist früh. (It's early.)

  • Du kommst aber spät. (You're really late.)

About This Article

This article can be found in the category: