German Lessons


Before, Part I: bevor, vor, or vorher?

There are a number of German words that may be translated as "before," in the temporal meaning of "at a previous time." Among the most common are vor, vorher, and bevor. Let's take a look today at these three German words that are commonly translated to English as "before."


The German word bevor is a subordinating conjunction that connects two independent clauses. Note that in most cases, where bevor appears in the last half of a sentence, the verb is usually at the end of the sentence: 


Darf ich's Ihnen dann noch schnell erklären, bevor Sie Ihre Platten essen?

May I explain it to you quickly before you eat your platters?

Caption 62, 48 h in Innsbruck: Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps

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Drei Wochen lang betteln hier die Jungen, bevor sie sich selber in die Fluten stürzen.

For three weeks, the young beg here before they dive into the waters themselves.

Caption 23, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

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Aber bevor du jetzt schneidest, check erst mal, ob der Stoff passt.

But before you start cutting, first check whether the fabric is suitable.

Captions 77-78, Coronavirus: Schutzmasken zum Selbermachen

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The German word vor is a preposition and is usually placed in a sentence to modify a noun. Note that when vor is used in its temporal sense, the definite or indefinite article of its noun is usually dative. For clarity, the preposition, the article, and the noun are in bold print:


Du musst den Ball vor dem letzten Schlag der Zwölf verlassen haben,

You need to have left the ball before the last stroke of twelve,

Caption 52, Märchenstunde: Das Aschenputtel

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Soll er die Tabletten morgens, mittags und abends vor oder nach dem Essen nehmen?

Should he take the pills in the morning, at noon, and in the evening—and before or after eating?

Caption 17, Nicos Weg: Nehmen Sie...

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Was bekommen wahlberechtigte Bürger und Bürgerinnen in Deutschland vor einer Wahl?

What do citizens who are eligible to vote receive before an election?

Caption 18, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

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The German word vorher is an adverb:


Alles andere kommt vorher.

Everything else comes before it.

Caption 35, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Konjunktionen

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Und dann kam es wieder aus dem Gully raus und noch viel größer und noch viel böser als vorher.

And then it came out of the storm drain again, much bigger and much meaner than before.

Caption 54, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

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Note that vorher is sometimes translated as "beforehand" and "previously," depending upon the context: 


Es besteht die Möglichkeit, jedes Board vorher zu testen...

The possibility exists, to test every board beforehand...

Caption 41, Longboarding: mit Lassrollen

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Dann bekommt man Geld zurück, das man vorher dafür bezahlt hat.

Then you get the money back that you previously paid for them.

Caption 13, Diane: auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt

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Further Learning
To recap: bevor usually connects two sentences; vor is a preposition that usually uses the dative case when referring to time; and vorher is an adverb that, as we know, modifies a verb. The best way to get an understanding of which word is appropriate in which context is hear them being used, however. Go to Yabla German and search for each of the three words—be sure that the examples with vor that you find are related to time and not place—and see the different ways that people commonly use them.

Winter Sports

In many German-speaking countries, winter sports are a popular pastime this time of year. The mountainous areas of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the region of South Tyrol in Italy are all popular destinations for skiing, snowboarding, and other activities. 


Was ist denn Ihre Lieblingswintersportart?

What is your favorite type of winter sport then?

Caption 42, Deutsche Sporthilfe - Ball des Sports

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The nouns and verbs for many winter sports are quite easy to remember. The nouns Das Schlittschuhlaufen ("ice skating"), das Skifahren ("skiing"), and das Snowboardfahren ("snowboarding") correspond directly to the verb constructions Schlittschuh laufen  ("to ice skate"/"to go ice skating"), Ski fahren ("to ski"/"to go skiing") and Snowboard fahren ("to snowboard"/"to go snowboarding"). 


„Frederick, was ist Schlittschuhlaufen?"

"Frederick, what is ice skating?"

Caption 3, Piggeldy und Frederick - Schlittschuhlaufen

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Ich fahr' eigentlich auch total gerne Schlittschuh.

I actually also really like to go ice skating.

Caption 3, Diane - auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt - Part 2

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Ich selber bin jahrelang Snowboard gefahren, ähm, in den Alpen, äh, in Europa in der Schweiz.

I, myself, snowboarded for years, um, in the Alps, uh, in Europe, in Switzerland.

Caption 8, Longboarding - mit Lassrollen

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Ähm, ich fahre relativ gerne Ski und fahre gerne Snowboard.

Um, I like to ski, more or less, and I like to snowboard.

Caption 51, Deutsche Sporthilfe - Ball des Sports - Part 3

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Further Learning
Watch any of the Yabla German videos above in their entirety, or click on the extra videos below to learn vocabulary related to equipment and technique: 


Skifahren lernen: Schneepflug zum Bremsen und Pflugbogen
Wintersport: Engadin Snow 2009


Der, die, or das? Part 2: Feminine Nouns

Der, die, or das? - Part 1: Masculine Nouns

Der, die, or das? - Part 3: Neuter Nouns


Last week, we discussed how the ending of a noun may indicate whether it's masculine, feminine, or neuter, and looked at some endings like -er and -ig that typically require the definite masculine article der. As we did last week, we must offer the disclaimer that this is not a 100% reliable way to learn the genders of nouns, due to many exceptions. We encourage you as much as possible to simply learn the appropriate definite article (derdie, or das) along with each individual word so that you'll always know the gender of the noun in the future.


However, if you ever get stuck, it might help to know that -anz-ei-heit-ik-ion

-keit-schaft-tät, and -ung are endings that often indicate a feminine noun. Let's look at some examples.


Es besteht die Möglichkeit, jedes Board vorher zu testen.

The possibility exists, to test every board beforehand.

Caption 41, Longboarding - mit Lassrollen

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Die Region zwischen Amrum und Sylt wurde wegen der Meeressäuger unter Schutz gestellt.

The region between Amrum and Sylt was placed under protection because of the marine mammals.

Caption 2, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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Beim Volleyball im Sand besteht die Mannschaft nämlich nur aus zwei Spielern.

With volleyball in the sand, the team consists, namely, of just two players.

Caption 10, Olympische Spiele - Beachvolleyball

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As mentioned last week, there are exceptions particularly for one-syllable words, which will most often not follow the rules. For example, die Einladung ("the invitation") is feminine, but der Sprung ("the jump") is masculine.


Die Einladung kommt noch.

The invitation is still on its way.

Caption 77, Free Birds - Interview mit Nora Tschirner & Rick Kavanian

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Und der Sprung an sich geht vielleicht nur drei Sekunden, aber es kommt einem ewig vor.

And the jump itself lasts perhaps only three seconds but it seems eternal.

Caption 44, Lucas' Hobbys - Achterbahn und Bungee

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Further Learning
Next week, we will conclude this small series with endings that are usually associated with neuter nouns. In the meantime, you can take a look at this useful list and look for the words used in context on Yabla German. If you use flashcards, make sure you're in the habit of always including "the" on the English side (for example, "the possibility" or "the team"), so that you will be sure to include the correct definite article in the translation on the other side of the card.

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