Adverbs in German Grammar

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What are adverbs?

Adverbs (Adverbien) are describing words that we use with verbs, adjectives and other adverbs.

Examples:
Sie fährt schnell.She drives underline">fast.
Das Wetter ist sehr schön.The weather is underline">very nice.
Sie fährt sehr schnell.She drives underline">very fast.

German adverbs can give information about: place (draußen, hier …), time (gestern, abends …), manner (anders, gern …) or reason (also, darum …). Wo-words like wofür, worüber, etc. are also adverbs.

Read on to learn about the different types of German adverbs in detail and how to use them in a sentence. Practise using adverbs correctly in the interactive exercises.

Example

Heute ist das Wetter schön, darum fährt Mila mit dem Fahrrad in den Park.

Sie trifft sich dort mit ihrer Freundin Anna.

Im Park gibt es einen Berg. Sie gehen oft dorthin.

Mila hat ein schnelles Fahrrad und liebt es, schnell den Berg nach oben zu fahren.

Von dort kann man den ganzen Park sehen.

Oben wartet Anna ungeduldig auf sie. Mila ist sehr spät dran, wofür sie sich entschuldigt.

Mila schenkt Anna einen Blumenstrauß, worüber sie sich freut.

Sie sitzen gemeinsam und genießen den wunderschönen Ausblick.

Adverbs vs. Adjectives

In English, adverbs often end in -ly (quickly, slowly …); in German, adverbs have no special ending and often look the same as adjectives.

So how do we tell the difference between the two? We have to look at the word they modify and their endings.

Adverbs can modify:

  • verbs (schnell fahren)
  • adjectives (sehr schön)
  • other adverbs (sehr spät)

In contrast, adjectives only modify nouns (ein schöner Tag).

This means that adjectives change their endings, but adverbs always stay the same. Compare:

Example:
Sie läuft schnell.She runs quickly. (schnell = quickly)
schnell is an adverb modifying the verb laufen, so doesn’t change its ending
Sie hat ein schnelles Fahrrad.She hast a fast bike. (schnell = fast)
schnell is an adjective describing the neuter noun Fahrrad, so takes the ending -es

These adverbs are technically called adverbial adjectives. You can learn more about them in the adjectives section.

Types of adverbs in German grammar

There are different types of adverbs in German grammar:

  • adverbs of place (Lokaladverbien)
  • adverbs of time (Temporaladverbien)
  • adverbs of reason (Kausaladverbien)
  • adverbs of manner (Modaladverbien)
  • relative adverbs (Relativadverbien)

Adverbs of Place (Lokaladverbien)

Adverbs of place give information about a location. They answer the question where?

Example:
Oben wartet Anna auf sie.Anna is waiting for her at the top.
where is Anna waiting? → at the top

Typical adverbs of place include: außenoutside, dathere/here, dortthere/over there, drinneninside, fortaway, hierhere, hintenbehind, irgendwosomewhere, linksleft, nebenannext to/near, nirgends/nirgendwonowhere, überalleverywhere, untenunder, vornin front/ahead

Movement & Direction

Certain adverbs of place can also express movement and direction (e.g. aufwärtsupwards, hinaufup, hineininto …). In this case, they answer the question wohin? (where to?/in which direction?).

Example:
Sie fährt den Berg hinauf.She cycles up the hill.

We can place nach (= towards/to) before an adverb to indicate a movement in this direction.

Example:
Sie liebt es, schnell den Berg nach oben zu fahren.She loves cycling quickly up the hill.

We use von (= from) before the adverb to show an origin or starting point.

Example:
Von da kann man den ganzen Park sehen.From there, you can see the whole park.

da/dort vs. dahin/dorthin

The adverbs da and dort are synonyms. They are equivalent to there in English.

Example:
Sie trifft sich dort/da mit ihrer Freundin.She’s meeting her friend there.

We have to use dahin/dorthin when we express a movement (= to there).

Example:
Im Park gibt es einen Berg. Sie gehen oft dahin/dorthin.There’s a hill in the park. They often go there.

Adverbs of Time (Temporaladverbien)

Adverbs of time tell us when something happens. They answer questions like wann?, wie oft?, um wie viel Uhr? or (seit) wie lange?

Examples:
Heute trifft sie sich mit Anna.She’s meeting Anna today.
when is she meeting Anna? → today
Sie geht täglich in den Park.She goes to the park every day.
how often does she go to the park? → every day

Typical adverbs of time include:

baldsoon, bereitsalready, bisheruntil now, danachafter, davorbefore, einstonce, endlichfinally, freitags/samstags/sonntagson Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays etc., gesternyesterday, immeralways, inzwischenmeanwhile, jetztnow, neulichrecently, nienever, oftoften, regelmäßigregularly, sofortimmediately, stetsconstantly, täglichdaily, vorhinbefore, zurzeitat the moment …

Adverbs of Manner (Modaladverbien)

Adverbs of manner tell us how an action is performed (e.g. quickly, slowly, happily …).

Example:
Anna wartet ungeduldig.Anna is waiting impatiently.

These adverbs can come before adjectives to show how much?, to what extent? or to which degree?

Example:
Mila ist sehr spät dran.Mila is very late.
how late is she? → very late

Typical adverbs of manner include:

andersdifferently, äußerstparticularly, beinahealmost, ebenfallsequally/likewise, fastalmost, ganzcompletely, genausoexactly, genugenough, gernhappily/gladly, größtenteilsmostly, hauptsächlichmainly, hoffentlichhopefully, kaumhardly, leiderunfortunately, möglicherweisepossibly, reihenweisein a row, sehrvery, vielleichtmaybe, wirklichreally …

gern

One of the most common adverbs in German is gern.

It can be tricky to translate directly into English, but its general meaning is similar to happily, gladly or even of course.

Example:
—Möchtest du ein Stück Kuchen?
Gern!—Would you like a piece of cake?
—Gern!

We also use gern to talk about hobbies and things we like doing.

Examples:
Ich fahre gern Fahrrad.I like riding my bike.
Melanie ist gern unter Menschen.Melanie likes being around people.

Adverbs of Reason (Kausaladverbien)

Adverbs of reason answer the question why?

Example:
Es ist sehr schön draußen, darum ist Mila im Park.It’s really nice outside, that’s why Mila is in the park.

Typical adverbs of reason include:

alsoso, dadurchthus, darumthat’s why, demnachthus, demzufolgeas a result, deshalbtherefore, folglichconsequently, sicherheitshalberto be on the safe side, somitthus/therefore, trotzdemnevertheless/anyway …

Relative Adverbs (Relativadverbien)

Relative adverbs (Relativadverbien) introduce relative clauses.

In English, relative clauses begin with where, which, that or who; in German, these clauses begin with wo.

Examples:
Mila ist im Park, wo es sehr schön ist.Mila is in the park, where it’s really nice.

Wo-words

You may also know relative adverbs as wo-words.

This is when we combine wo with a preposition: womit (= with which), wofür (= for which), worüber (= about which) …

Which preposition we use depends on the verb in the sentence.

Example:
Mila ist sehr spät dran, wofür sie sich entschuldigt.Mila is very late, which she apologises for.
sich für etwas entschuldigen = wo + für

Note: if the preposition beings with a vowel, we have to add an -r- to aid pronunciation.

Example:
Mila schenkt Anna einen Blumenstrauß, worüber Anna sich freut.Mila gives Anna a bunch of flowers, which makes her happy.
sich über etwas freuen → wo + r + über

Where do German adverbs come in a sentence?

German adverbs can occupy two possible positions in a sentence: at the beginning or in the middle.

Examples:
Heute ist das Wetter schön.Today, the weather is nice.
Das Wetter ist heute schön.The weather is nice today.

Where we place the adverb affects the word order in the sentence.

Adverb at the beginning

When the adverb comes at the very beginning of the sentence, the verb comes next, not the subject.

Example:
Heute ist das Wetter schön.The weather is nice today.
not: Heute das Wetter ist schön.

Adverb in the middle

When the adverb comes in the middle of a sentence, we have to bear in mind the following:

  • Adverbs come before an accusative object but after a dative object
    Example:
    Sie hat heute einen Blumenstrauß gekauft.She bought a bunch of flowers today.
    accusative object: einen Blumenstrauß
    Sie hat ihrer Freundin heute einen Blumenstrauß geschenkt.She gave her friend a bunch of flowers today.
    dative object: ihrer Freundin
  • Adverbs cannot come directly before personal pronouns. This means that if the accusative object is a pronoun, the adverb comes after.
Example:
Sie hat heute einen Blumenstrauß gekauft.She bought a bunch of flowers today.
but: Sie hat ihn heute gekauft.She bought it today.
ihn = den Blumenstrauß
  • If there is no object in the sentence, the adverb comes after the conjugated verb (or the reflexive pronoun (mich, dich, sich …).
    Example:
    Sie sitzen gemeinsam.They sit together.
    Sie entspannen sich gemeinsam.They relax together. (reflexive verb: sich entspannen)
  • Adverbs of time normally come before adverbs of place.
    Example:
    Sie ist täglich dort.She is there daily.
    not: Sie ist dort täglich.

Comparative and superlative adverbs in German

Normally, adverbs never change their endings.

However, there are a handful of adverbs that have comparative and superlative forms.

Examples:
Sie mag den Park sehr.She likes the park underline">a lot.
Sie mag den Park mehr als den Spielplatz.She likes the park underline">more than the playground.
Sie mag den Spielplatz und den Zoo, aber den Park mag sie am meisten.She likes the playground and the zoo, but she likes the park underline">the most.
Base Form Comaprative Superlative
bald eher am ehesten
gern lieber am liebsten
oft häufiger/öfter am häufigsten
sehr mehr am meisten

With some adverbs, we can use weiter/am weitesten to give a comparative or superlative meaning.

Example:
Dieser Park liegt weiter nördlich als der andere.