German adverbs

Learning a foreign language can be challenging – especially when we're talking about German. There are new grammar rules to learn, vocabulary to memorize, and pronunciation to master. And, even though the use of adverbs shouldn't be as much of a challenge as, for example, the case system, they still can be confusing sometimes.

In this article, we'll help you grasp the fundamentals of adverbs in German. Let's explore how they are formed and used, as well as looking at some examples for a better understanding of their purpose and significance. So, whether you simply want to learn how to say “very” in German or master the complex sentence structure, read on!

What Are Adverbs?

An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. In German, as in English, they are typically placed either before or after the word that they are modifying. Some common examples of adverbs in German include schon (already), schnell (quickly), and leise (quietly).

Adverbs can be formed in several ways in German. Most adverbs are formed from nouns and adjectives used as adverbs in the sentence. In that case, you simply take the word and put it in place of an adverb, without changing the ending:

Native

Translation

Er war schick angezogen.

He was stylishly dressed.

In some cases, we add the suffixes -weise or -sweise to the noun. Adverbs created this way do not directly comment on the verb.

Native

Translation

Wir kamen nur schrittweise voran.

We were making progress very gradually.

Finally, a small group of adverbs are created by adding -erweise to an uninflected adjective. These are mostly used to express a speaker's opinion.

Native

Translation

Das haben wir glücklicherweise rechtzeitig bemerkt.

Fortunately, we noticed it in time.

Adverbs vs. Adjectives

How are adverbs different from adjectives? These two parts of speech can be tricky to distinguish in the German language, since most adverbs are simply adjectives functioning as adverbs.

Fortunately, there is a simple tip for that. As mentioned above, an adjective functioning as an adverb doesn’t change its ending depending on the number or gender. A regular adjective, however, will need an appropriate ending.

Native

Translation

Gute, fertige Arbeit.

Nice, finished work.

Eine gut gemachte Arbeit.

Nicely finished work.

German adverbs

Sometimes, though, you will have to pay attention to the context of the sentence, as adjectives can also appear without endings in some situations.

Native

Translation

Das ist gut.

That is good.

Adverbs in German Sentence Structure

In German, adverbs can be placed either before or after the word they modify, as well as in the beginning or middle of the sentence.

Here are some main rules:

  • When an adverb is placed in the beginning of the sentence, the word order changes. The verb then comes before the subject, and the sentence has the following structure: adverb + conjugated verb + subject + rest of the sentence.

Native

Translation

Glücklicherweise war er nicht laet.

Luckily, he wasn’t late.

  • When the adverb is placed in the middle, it will stand before an accusative object but after a dative object.

Native

Translation

Sie bat den Arbeiter ruhig um Rat.

She calmly asked the worker for help.

  • Adverbs never come before personal pronouns. If both objects in the sentence are pronouns, the adverb comes after both of them.

Native

Translation

Ich habe es dir langsam gegeben.

I slowly gave it to you.

  • When there’s no object in the sentence, the adverb comes after the conjugated verb. If that is a reflexive verb, the adverb needs to be placed after the reflexive pronoun.

Native

Translation

Sie hat sich sofort verlaufen.

She immediately got lost.

  • If the verb is used with prepositions, the adverb comes before them.

Native

Translation

Ich war gestern in der Schule.

I went to school yesterday.

Types of Adverbs

There are different types of adverbs in the German language. Each type has a specific function and serves a particular purpose. We can divide them into 6 groups: adverbs of time, place, manner, cause, relative adverbs, and conjunctive adverbs.

Let's take a closer look at each of these groups.

Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of place, or locative adverbs, express the location of an object or a person. They can be used to point out the position, direction, distance, or region of something.

Locative adverbs answer the question “where?”

Native

Translation

Draußen schneit es!

It's snowing outside!

German adverbs

Here are some common adverbs of place in German:

Native

Translation

da

there, here

dort

there, over there

irgendwo

somewhere

überall

nowhere

oben

above

unten

below

links

left

rechts

right

aufwärts

upwards

draußen

outside

drinnen

inside

hinein

into

hinten

behind

Adverbs of Time

Adverbs of time, or temporal adverbs, are used to describe when a certain action happens. They can be used to express the position of an event in time, or they can just tell us if something happened earlier or later.

Temporal adverbs answer the question "when?"

Native

Translation

Ich habe ihn nur einmal getroffen.

I met him just once.

Here are some common examples:

Native

Translation

gestern

yesterday

heute

today

jetzt

now, at present time

früher

earlier, previously (in past)

später

later, afterward (in future)

bald

soon

einst

once

immer

always

nie

never

Causal Adverbs

These adverbs are used to show the cause of an event or a situation. They express the reason, manner, method, or consequence behind something. These adverbs answer the question “why?”

Native

Translation

Trotzdem war ich pünktlich.

Nevertheless, I was on time.

Here are some common causal adverbs:

Native

Translation

dadurch

thus

darum

that’s why

also

so

trotzdem

nevertheless, anyway

demzufolge

as a result

folglich

consequently

Adverbs of Manner

These adverbs are used to describe the manner or the way in which something happens. They usually point out how, where, when, why, or in what condition a certain event took place.

These adverbs answer the question “how?” or “to what extent?” They can modify a whole sentence and not just one word.

Native

Translation

Leider ist der Bus schon weg.

Unfortunately, the bus already left.

German adverbs

Here are some common adverbs in this group:

Native

Translation

anders

differently

fast

almost

ganz

completely

gern

gladly

hauptsächlich

mainly

leider

unfortunately

sehr

very

vielleicht

maybe

Relative Adverbs

Relative adverbs are used to connect dependent clauses with independent ones. They also introduce a subordinate clause and give us additional information about the subordinate clause.

Relative adverbs often come in the form of the following construction: wo + preposition.

Native

Translation

Er nahm das Geld heraus, womit er die Chips bezahlte.

He took out the money, with which he paid for the chips.

Here are some common relative adverbs:

Native

Translation

wo

where

womit

with which

wofür

for which

worüber

about which

Conjunctive Adverbs

Adverbial conjunctions, or conjunctive adverbs, can be used to connect two independent clauses without any subordinating conjunction. These conjunctive adverbs are especially common in formal writing, such as academic texts.

Causal adverbs are often used as adverbial conjunctions.

Native

Translation

Es war niemand in der Klasse, also bin ich gegangen.

There was no one in the class, so I left.

Some other conjunctive adverbs are:

Native

Translation

außerdem

besides

folglich

as a result

schließlich

ultimately

zuvor

previously

Comparative and Superlative Forms of Adverbs

Most adverbs have only one form in German, unlike the English language. However, some adverbs can make comparatives and superlatives like adjectives. These are "bald" (soon), "gern" (gladly), "oft" (often), and "wohl" (good).

Here are their comparative and superlative forms:

AdverbComparativeSuperlative
bald eher am ehesten
gern lieber am liebsten
oft öfter am häufigsten
wohl wohler am wohlsten

Bottom Line

German adverbs

German adverbs are actually not that difficult to learn, and with a little practice, you will be able to use them effectively in your German conversations.

In this article, we’ve gone over the different types of adverbs, how they are used, and some common examples. We hope that this information has been helpful and given you a little more confidence when using German adverbs.

If you want to continue learning about German grammar, try diving deeper into more complicated parts of the language. With a little effort, you can soon be speaking German like a pro.