The Complete Guide to German Adverbs of Time, Manner and Place
Adverbs help us describe actions in more detail so we can tell great stories and speak with specificity.
But how do you use them in German?
In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know about the three main types of German adverbs: time, manner and place.
With a bit of practice, you’ll be painting descriptive narratives and relaying anecdotes with the full spectrum of German adverbs.
- What is a German Adverb?
- Word Order of German Adverbs
- Adverbs of Time
- Adverbs of Manner
- Adverbs of Place
What is a German Adverb?
Adverbs are words that we use to modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs to add more specificity. They allow us to include the details when we express things. German adverbs tend to fall into one of three categories: time, manner or place.
- Time: When did the action happen? How often (frequency) did it occur? (ex: immer — always)
- Manner: In what way was an action completed? What emotions were exhibited? (ex: langsam — slowly)
- Place: Where did an action occur? (ex: drinnen — inside)
By using adverbs, you can give color to your descriptions and weave in details like a German native speaker.
Word Order of German Adverbs
It’s important to remember that German adverbs follow a pattern of time, manner and place, or TMP. If you want to use more than one adverb in a sentence, you’ll need to follow this order.
For example, all of your time-related adverbs should be privileged in your sentence before adverbs of manner, then place. Even if you don’t include any or all of those elements, you can still be sure that the words are placed in the correct order.
As you read through the examples below, notice the different word order from German to English. Not all expressions translate well. However, you might consider what the sentences would lose if you removed the adverb.
Adverbs of Time
Use adverbs of time to specify when an action occurs. Pay attention to word order with time-sensitive adverbs. Most often, as you can see from the bolded text, these adverbs come at the beginning of the sentence.
oft — often
manchmal — sometimes
nie / nimmer — never
Nie is often used to show never having done something. Nimmer usually holds the connotation of having done something, but never wanting to do it again.
gestern — yesterday
heute — today
morgen — tomorrow
morgens — mornings
nachmittag — in the afternoon
nachts / abends — evening/at night
Examples with Adverbs of Time:
Nie habe ich Deutschland besucht, doch nimmer werde ich Russia besuchen. (Never have I visited Germany, but never again will I visit Russia.)
Wir gehen oft ins Kino. (We go to the movies often.)
Oft backe ich kleine Torten für mein Freund. (Often I bake small tortes for my boyfriend.)
Oft, as you can see, can either come first in the sentence or in third position. Emphasis is the determining factor here. When I say “We go to the movies often,” I can also say, “Oft gehen wir ins Kino,” meaning “Often we go to the movies.” Depending on the context, conversation might lead you to use oft at the beginning of the sentence, or in the third position.
Many of the following examples work the same way:
Manchmal trage ich meine Sonnenbrille, aber nimmer vergesse ich sie. (Sometimes I wear my sunglasses, but I never forget them.)
Gestern bin ich in den Supermarkt gegangen. Morgen muss ich den Arzt besuchen. (Yesterday I went to the supermarket. Tomorrow I must visit my doctor.)
Meine Mutter kommt heute, aber ich bin nicht bereit! (My mother comes today, but I’m not ready!)
Nachmittags gehe ich in die Bibliothek, aber abends muss ich arbeiten. (In the afternoon I go to the library, but in the evening I have to work.)
Morgens gehe ich mit Fluffy spazieren, dann gehen wir beide zusammen zur Schule. (In the morning I walk Fluffy, then we both go to school together.)
Adverbs of Manner
Adverbs of manner show emotion or condition. Whether you eat furiously or run lazily, these adverbs will help you express those feelings.
allein / alleine — alone
zusammen — together
natürlich — naturally
freiwillig — voluntarily
langsam — slowly
sicherlich — certainly
zögerlich — reluctantly
wütend — angrily
gern / gerne — gladly
widerwillig — stubbornly
leichtsinnig — recklessly
vielleicht — maybe
lieber — rather
hoffentlich — hopefully
eventuell — possibly
zufällig — per chance
Examples with Adverbs of Manner:
Wir fliegen natürlich zusammen nach Las Vegas. (Naturally, we fly together to Las Vegas.)
In this case, the phrase “Of course” might better express the intent of the German adverb “naturally.” Just as “of course” symbolizes an action would usually not occur any other way (i.e., “Of course we have to check in before we can enter.”), natürlich exhibits the same properties.
Langsam gehe ich spazieren. (I walk slowly.)
Sicherlich habe ich heute den Abfall weggeworfen. (I’m certain I threw away the trash today.)
In this sentence, you could also replace “I’m certain” with “Surely,” as in “Surely, I threw the trash away today.”
Er macht gern seine Aufgabe, aber Kristin sitzt wütend. (He did his homework gladly, but Kristin sat angrily.)
Lieber spreche ich mit ihm, als meine Hausaufgabe machen. (I’d rather speak with him than do my homework.)
The English here reads: “I would rather speak,” which is a different tense than is demonstrated by the German sentence; the verb “would” usually denotes subjunctive.
Adverbs of Place
There are many cases in which it’s important to express direction and location. These adverbs of place are just what you need to do so.
links — left
rechts — right
oben — above
über — over
unten — below
voran — before/in front
drinnen — inside
drauβen — outside
nirgends — nowhere
irgendwo — somewhere
überall — everywhere
hier — here
da / dort — here/there
Dort specifies a certain location, as in “there” or “thereabouts.”
Da is a very versatile word that can be used to mean many things, depending on context. You might be pointing to a map and say da, meaning there. Or you could say da and mean here, as in “Here is where I want to plant a tree.”
drüben — over there
weg — away
nahe — near
Examples with Adverbs of Place:
Ich wohne da. (I live here/there.)
Da ist wo mein Haus ist. (That’s where my house is.)
Man wendet zuerst rechts, dann links. (You turn first right, then left.)
Drauβen regnet es, doch irgendwo habe ich einen Regenschirm. (Outside it’s raining, but somewhere I have an umbrella.)
Warten Sie hier bitte, bis ich zurückkomme. (Wait here, please, until I come back.)
Mein Freund geht weg, aber wir sehen uns bald! (My friend is going away, but we’re seeing each other soon!)
Über das Haus fliegt ein Vogel. (Over the house flies a bird.)
This is a direct translation. More colloquially it would read: “A bird flies over the house.”
If you need more practice seeing German adverbs in action, you can use a language learning platform like FluentU to watch authentic videos turned immersive language lessons.
Try identifying all the adverbs you hear (and see in the interactive subtitles), and take note of the word order and pronunciation (just click on the adverb to pull up features like audio).
While stand-alone examples can be helpful for learning, getting exposure to native German and hearing adverbs used naturally is crucial for securing them in your toolbox of descriptive words.
So next time you share that funny story with friends and family, consider saying it in German and using these adverbs to bring life to your experiences!
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