Learn Your German Adverbs

A Young Backpacking Couple in Germany pointing to a point of interest

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Similar to English, German adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. They are used to indicate a place, time, cause, and manner, and they can be found in various parts of a sentence.

Examples

Here is where you might find an adverb in a German sentence:

  • Before or after verbs:
    • Ich lese gern. (I like reading.)
    • Das habe ich hierhin gestellt. (I put that here.)
  • Before or after nouns:
    • Der Mann da, der guckt dich immer an. (The man over there is always looking at you.)
    • Ich habe drüben am Ufer ein Boot. (I have a boat over there by the shore.)
  • Before or after adjectives:
    • Diese Frau ist sehr hübsch. (This woman is very pretty.)
    • Ich bin in spätestens drei Wochen zurück. (I'll be back in three weeks at the latest.)

Conjunctions

Adverbs can also sometimes function as conjunctions. For example: 

  • Ich habe letzte Nacht überhaupt nicht geschlafen, deshalb bin ich müde. (I didn’t sleep at all last night, that’s why I’m so tired.)

Modify a Sentence

Adverbs can also change a sentence. Specifically, question adverbs (Frageadverbien) can modify a phrase or a sentence. For example: 

  • Worüber denkst du? (What are you thinking about?)

The very best thing about German adverbs is that they are never declined. (Did we just hear a sigh of relief?) Furthermore, adverbs can be created from nouns, prepositions, verbs, and adjectives:

Creating Adverbs

Here are some ways you can make adverbs in German: 

  • Adverbs plus prepositions: When combining prepositions with the adverbs wo(r), da(r) or hier, you get prepositional adverbs, such as worauf (on where), davor (before that) and hierum (around here).
  • Verbs as adverbs: Past particles of verbs can stand in as adverbs and without modification. Read more here: Past Participles as Adverbs. 
  • When an adjective is an adverb: Predicate adjectives will function as adverbs when placed after a conjugated verb and you do not need to make any changes to the predicate adjective. Unlike English, Germans do not make a distinction in form between a predicate adjective and an adverb. See Adverbs of Manner and Degree. 

Types

Adverbs are divided into four main groups:

  • Place
  • Time
  • Manner and Degree
  • Indicating Cause