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How to Use Im, Am Or Um in German?

Updated: Apr 5

Embarking on the journey of mastering German involves navigating through a linguistic maze, and and prepositions play a pivotal role in this linguistic odyssey. Among these, "im," "am," and "um" often pose a conundrum for learners. This blog post is your compass, guiding you through the intricacies of using these prepositions in German. Let's embark on this exploration of prepositional nuances together. The following infographic shows how we we use them.

Im, Am, Um Explained

"Im" and "am" are contractions of the prepositions in/an and the article "dem" for the masculine dative case. Why dative? Because both are two-way prepositions in German that go with the dative case whenever there is no change in location implied by the verb. As we're using these two prepositions in a temporal context here, there is no change in location. By contrast, "um" is an accusative preposition in German.

Let's look at some examples.

If someone asks you "wieviel Uhr ist es?" (what time is it?), you would answer with "um", e.g.

  • Entschuldigen Sie bitte, könnten Sie mir sagen wieviel Uhr es ist? Ja, natürlich. Es ist 10:51 Uhr.

Answering the question "are you free on Thursday?", you would use "am"

  • Hast du am Donnerstag Zeit? Ja, am Donnerstag habe ich noch nichts vor.

When are you normally going on holiday? Your response may be "im Sommer" (or any other season)

  • Wann gehts du in Urlaub? Im Sommer. Und du? Vielleicht im Herbst.

And when someone asks me when I was born, I would say "Ich bin am 2. Juli 1982 geboren".

  • Wann bist du geboren. Ich am 2.7. 1982 geboren.

Do not confuse am Morgen with morgens though. They mean different things!

You will find my complete guide to German prepositions in a separate post. On our blog, we also also discuss topics on the language as a whole, such as how many words there are in the German language, and if German is difficult to learn.

All clear? Leave me a comment if not and I'll be happy to help.



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