In this blog post, I will explain how to translate the English word evening into German and the main contexts in which we use it. As there are some important differences in use between English and German, literal translations between the two languages can be misleading.
The German word for "evening" is the masculine noun “Abend” (so "der Abend"). We use it in phrases like “guten Abend” (good evening), in combination with adverbs of time like "heute Abend" (this evening, tonight) , with a preposition “am Abend” ("in the evening", when referring to one occasion) or without preposition “abends” ("in the evenings", when referring to routines or recurring events). Let's look at some examples.
Am Abend gehen sie ins Theater (In the evening, they go to the theatre)
Möchtest du heute Abend ins Kino gehen? (would you like to go to the cinema tonight?)
Abends sehen sie oft fern (In the evenings, they often watch tv)
Abends geht er immer ins Fitnessstudio (In the evenings, he always goes to the gym)
While all this might sound very similar to English, there is an important difference between “evening” (Abend) and night “Nacht”. In modern English, it is quite common to ask questions like “what are you doing tonight?” The German translation, however, would not use our word for night here (die Nacht) but evening instead, unless you wanted to literally refer to after midnight. So we would ask “was machst du (informal, or “machen Sie” formal) heute Abend?” to enquire about someone’s evening plans. The same goes for "tomorrow night" (morgen Abend). The German word evening, then, refers to anything from 6pm until midnight, whereas "Nacht" would be from midnight until roughly 5am.