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German Expressions of Frequency

In addition to adverbs of indefinite frequency, such as oft or häufig, and adverbs of definite frequency, such as täglich or morgens, there are also expressions for talking about how often something occurs. In English, we often say that something happens "once a month" or "every other week." How do we express this in German? 

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You likely know the phrase jeden Tag, or "every day." But do you know how to say "every other day"?

 

Dazu gehört auch, dass den Jungvögeln jeden zweiten Tag ein Tisch mit Knochen gedeckt wird.

This also means that every other day, a table is set with bones for the young birds.

Caption 29, Die letzten Paradiese - Die Schönheit der Alpen 1

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You can say jede zweite Woche for "every other week," but generally something happening at particular intervals will be expressed with alle and not jede zweite. Take a look:

 

Die Bergbahn fährt alle zwanzig Minuten hoch zum Königstuhl

The mountain railway goes up to the Königstuhl every twenty minutes

und alle zehn Minuten zurück runter in die Innenstadt.

and back down to the city center every ten minutes.

Captions 12-13, Jenny zeigt uns - Das Heidelberger Schloss

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Bei warmen Temperaturen gebären sie

In warm temperatures, they give birth to

alle acht bis zehn Tage dreißig bis vierzig Jungtiere.

thirty to forty young every eight to ten days.

Caption 14, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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Wir finden hier alle vier Wochen eine Schildkröte.

We find a turtle here every four weeks.

Caption 42, Ausgrabungen - Auf den Spuren der Dinosaurier

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Das Projekt „Lunch Beat“ besteht in Hamburg seit dem vergangenen Sommer

The project "Lunch Beat" has existed in Hamburg since last summer

und findet in unregelmäßigen Abständen alle zwei bis drei Monate statt.

and takes place at irregular intervals every two to three months.

Captions 9-10, Lunch Beat - Tanzen in der Mittagspause

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To more specifically state that something happens "once" in a particular time interval, we can use the word einmal in + dative.

 

Das tue ich für gewöhnlich einmal in der Woche.

I typically do it once a week.

Caption 2, Wäsche waschen - mit Eva

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Einmal in der Woche trainiert Astrid Bittner-Utsch Frauen und Männer,

Once a week, Astrid Bittner-Utsch trains women and men

die ihrem Traumberuf ein Stück näher kommen wollen.

who want to get a little bit closer to their dream profession.

Captions 9-10, Auf dem Laufsteg - Modelcollege in Wiesbaden

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Leon, wieso? -Einmal im Jahr gibt es diese Mathe-Olympiade.

Leon, why? -Once a year, the Math Olympics take place.

Caption 20, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche

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Further Learning
Based on what you see above, how do you express "once a month"? What about "every five days" or "every five years"? Can you find another way to say "every other day"? For more practice, you can go to Yabla German to look for more examples, or translate some basic sentences about your current routine into German. 

A Fraction of the Time

This week we are going to review one aspect of telling the time in German that should be easy for intermediate and advanced German speakers, but a bit tricky for beginners. The telling of time in German uses quarterly divisions: Viertel (quarter), halb (half), and in some German dialects, drei viertel (three-quarters). 

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For 15 minutes past the hour, you use Viertel nach

 

Heute morgen um Viertel nach sechs ist die Nationalmannschaft in Frankfurt gelandet.

This morning at a quarter past six, the national team landed in Frankfurt.

Caption 16, Umfragen - Nach der WM

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For 15 minutes before the hour, you use Viertel vor

 

Es ist Viertel vor acht.

It is quarter to eight.

Caption 22, Lydia erklärt - die Uhrzeit

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In American English, when the clock reads 1:30, it is called "one thirty", but the informal British English equivalent is "half one." For native British English speakers, the German rendering of 1:30 can be especially confusing: 

 

Es ist jetzt halb eins.

It is now half one [twelve thirty].

Caption 23, Jenny zeigt uns - Das Heidelberger Schloss - Part 2

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So as you see, the British English "half one" is 1:30, but the German halb eins is 12:30. You just have to remember that when halb is used in telling time, it is always going a half hour back in time.

 

In some German dialects, instead of saying Viertel vor, they say drei viertel or "three quarters." In dialect, 12:45 could be drei viertel eins instead of Viertel vor eins

 

Note too that for grammatical reasons, Viertel nach and Viertel vor are capitalized, but halb and drei viertel are not. It is also important to note that the word Uhr, in this context the equivalent of "o'clock," is not used when telling the time with time divisions. At 10 o'clock you say it is zehn Uhr, but at 10:15 you simply say it is Viertel nach zehn, omitting the word Uhr.

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Further Learning
Watch the video Lydia erklärt die Uhrzeit on Yabla German to review the proper telling of time in German.

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