Learn the Months, Seasons, Days, and Dates in German

A German calendar
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After studying this lesson, you'll be able to say the days and months, express calendar dates,  talk about the seasons and talk about dates and deadlines (Termine) in German.

Luckily, because they are based on Latin, the English and German words for the months are almost identical. The days in many cases are also similar because of a common Germanic heritage. Most of the days bear the names of Teutonic gods in both languages. For example, the Germanic god of war and thunder, Thor, lends his name to both English Thursday and German Donnerstag (thunder = Donner).

The German Days of the Week (Tage der Woche)

Let's start with the days of the week (tage der woche). Most of the days in German end in the word (derTag, just as the English days end in "day." The German week (and calendar) starts with Monday (Montag) rather than Sunday. Each day is shown with its common two-letter abbreviation.

DEUTSCH ENGLISCH
Montag (Mo)
(Mond-Tag)
Monday
"moon day"
Dienstag (Di)
(Zies-Tag)
Tuesday
Mittwoch (Mi)
(mid-week)
Wednesday
(Wodan's day)
Donnerstag (Do)
"thunder-day"
Thursday
(Thor's day)
Freitag (Fr)
(Freya-Tag)
Friday
(Freya's day)
Samstag (Sa)
Sonnabend (Sa)
(used in No. Germany)
Saturday
(Saturn's day)
Sonntag (So)
(Sonne-Tag)
Sunday
"sun day"

The seven days of the week are masculine (der) since they usually end in -tag (der Tag). The two exceptions, Mittwoch and Sonnabend, are also masculine. Note that there are two words for Saturday. Samstag is used in most of Germany, in Austria, and German Switzerland. Sonnabend ("Sunday eve") is used in eastern Germany and roughly north of the city of Münster in northern Germany. So, in Hamburg, Rostock, Leipzig or Berlin, it's Sonnabend; in Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich or Vienna "Saturday" is Samstag. Both words for "Saturday" are understood all over the German-speaking world, but you should try to use the one most common in the region you're in. Note the two-letter abbreviation for each of the days (Mo, Di, Mi, etc.). These are used on calendars, schedules and German/Swiss watches that indicate the day and date.

Using Prepositional Phrases With Days of the Week

To say "on Monday" or "on Friday" you use the prepositional phrase am Montag or am Freitag. (The word am is a contraction of an and dem, the dative form of der. More about that below.) Here are some commonly used phrases for the days of the week:

Englisch Deutsch
on Monday
(on Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.)
am Montag
(am Dienstag, Mittwoch, usw.)
(on) Mondays
(on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc.)
montags
(dienstags, mittwochs, usw.)
every Monday, Mondays
(every Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.)
jeden Montag
(jeden Dienstag, Mittwoch, usw.)
this Tuesday (am) kommenden Dienstag
last Wednesday letzten Mittwoch
the Thursday after next übernächsten Donnerstag
every other Friday jeden zweiten Freitag
Today is Tuesday. Heute ist Dienstag.
Tomorrow is Wednesday. Morgen ist Mittwoch.
Yesterday was Monday. Gestern war Montag.

A few words about the dative case, which is used as the object of certain prepositions (as with dates) and as the indirect object of a verb. Here we are concentrating on the use of the accusative and dative in expressing dates. Here is a chart of those changes. 

GENDER Nominativ Akkusativ Dativ
MASC. der/jeder den/jeden dem
NEUT. das das dem
FEM. die die der

EXAMPLES: am Dienstag (on Tuesday, dative), jeden Tag (every day, accusative)

NOTE: The masculine (der) and neuter (das) make the same changes (look the same) in the dative case. Adjectives or numbers used in the dative will have an -en ending: am sechsten April.

Now we want to apply the information in the chart above. When we use the prepositions an (on), and in (in) with days, months or dates, they take the dative case. Days and months are masculine, so we end up with a combination of an or in plus dem, which equals am or im. To say "in May" or "in November" you use the prepositional phrase im Mai or im November. However, some date expressions that do not use prepositions (jeden Dienstag, letzten Mittwoch) are in the accusative case.

The Months (Die Monate)

The months are all masculine gender (der). There are two words used for July. Juli (YOO-LEE) is the standard form, but German-speakers often say Julei (YOO-LYE) to avoid confusion with Juni—in much the same way that zwo is used for zwei.

 

DEUTSCH ENGLISCH
Januar
YAHN-oo-ahr
January
Februar February
März
MEHRZ
March
April April
Mai
MYE
May
Juni
YOO-nee
June
Juli
YOO-lee
July
August
ow-GOOST
August
September September
Oktober October
November November
Dezember December

The Four Seasons (Die vier Jahreszeiten)

The seasons are all masculine gender (except for das Frühjahr, another word for spring). The months for each season above are, of course, for the northern hemisphere where Germany and the other German-speaking countries lie.

When speaking of a season in general ("Autumn is my favorite season."), in German you almost always use the article: "Der Herbst ist meine Lieblingsjahreszeit." The adjectival forms are shown below translate as "springlike, springy," "summerlike" or "autumnal, falllike" (sommerliche Temperaturen = "summerlike/summery temperatures"). In some cases, the noun form is used as a prefix, as in die Winterkleidung = "winter clothing" or die Sommermonate = "the summer months." The prepositional phrase im (in dem) is used for all the seasons when you want to say, for instance, "in (the) spring" (im Frühling). This is the same as for the months.

Jahreszeit Monate
der Frühling
das Frühjahr
(Adj.) frühlingshaft
März, April, Mai
im Frühling - in the spring
der Sommer
(Adj.) sommerlich
Juni, Juli, August
im Sommer - in the summer
der Herbst
(Adj.) herbstlich
Sept., Okt., Nov.
im Herbst - in the fall/autumn
der Winter
(Adj.) winterlich
Dez., Jan., Feb.
im Winter - in the winter

Prepositional Phrases With Dates

To give a date, such as "on July 4th," you use am (as with the days) and the ordinal number (4th, 5th): am vierten Juli, usually written am 4. Juli. The period after the number represents the -ten ending on the number and is the same as the -th, -rd, or -nd ending used for English ordinal numbers.

Note that numbered dates in German (and in all of the European languages) are always written in the order of the day, month, year—rather than the month, day, year. For example, in German, the date 1/6/01 would be written 6.1.01 (which is Epiphany or Three Kings, the 6th of January 2001). This is the logical order, moving from the smallest unit (the day) to the largest (the year). To review the ordinal numbers, see this guide to German numbers. Here are some commonly used phrases for the months and calendar dates:

Calendar Date Phrases

Englisch Deutsch
in August
(in June, October, etc.)
im August
(im Juni, Oktober, usw.)
on June 14th (spoken)
on June 14, 2001 (written)
am vierzehnten Juni
am 14. Juni 2001 - 14.7.01
on the first of May (spoken)
on May 1, 2001 (written)
am ersten Mai
am 1. Mai 2001 - 1.5.01

Ordinal Numbers

The ordinal numbers are so-called because they express the order in a series, in this case for dates. But the same principle applies to the "first door" (die erste Tür) or the "fifth element" (das fünfte Element).

In most cases, the ordinal number is the cardinal number with a -te or -ten ending. Just as in English, some German numbers have irregular ordinals: one/first (eins/erste) or three/third (drei/dritte). Below is a sample chart with ordinal numbers that would be required for dates. 

Englisch Deutsch
1 the first - on the first/1st der erste - am ersten/1.
2 the second - on the second/2nd der zweite - am zweiten/2.
3 the third - on the third/3rd der dritte - am dritten/3.
4 the fourth - on the fourth/4th der vierte - am vierten/4.
5 the fifth - on the fifth/5th der fünfte - am fünften/5.
6 the sixth - on the sixth/6th der sechste - am sechsten/6.
11 the eleventh
on the eleventh/11th
der elfte - am elften/11.
21 the twenty-first
on the twenty-first/21st
der einundzwanzigste
am einundzwanzigsten/21.
31 the thirty-first
on the thirty-first/31st
der einunddreißigste
am einunddreißigsten/31.