Time 6 – Actions

Hello everyone,

welcome to part 6, the part with a kick start. No boring recap, no witty banter and most importantly .. no flippin’ part 5.2. That’s right. I am skipping it.
I know… we still have to talk .. excuse me… (yaaaaaaaaaaawn)…. about von-bis, vor, nach, während and her but frankly…  I don’t wan’t to…   I just hate leftovers.
All throughout the time mini series I have been looking forward to the part we are going to do today. It is the most interesting, most useful and most eye-opening, insightful part of all plus the picture has a baby polar bear in it. Those little black eyes and that fluffy fur. So cute. Would you be able to resist? I am not… so we’ll do part 6 today and as for part 5.2 … well, we’ll see.


Alright. Today is going to be special because I actually have a guest here, Mike welcome…
“Hi Emanuel, hey everyone out there…
Mike, you’ve been working at German is Easy for about 9 months now, tell us what exactly you do here…
Sure... so I’m Mike and I work in the SB-Department and we are responsible for the design and rendering of the speech bubbles in the pictures… I mostly do the outlines…”
…and I have to say, you guys are always doing a terrific job..
“Well thank you…
… but, Mike, you don’t only design speech bubbles, you’ve also started learning German a couple of months ago…
“That’s right…”
So .. today is going to be a little intense, so I have decided to invite you over to magically ask all the right questions at the right t… uh… I mean… to support me… yeah, that’s what I wanted to say. So you’re going to be kind of a representative for all the people learning German out there and whenever I am counting on you to tell me, whenever I stop making sense… feel free to speak up at any time.
Hahaha… well I’ll do my best to look utterly confused…
Alright so let’s start … and let’s start with a little warning.
Today will be intense. And it will be loooooong because I am not going to split this one up. It is nothing too difficult, just a lot to digest. So… if you’re at work and you were planning to kind of rea .. erm… listen to it while you do your work stuff like shooting birds or checking Facebook… don’t do it, you wont get anything out of it.

So what is today about? We have talked about a lot in this mini series but what we haven’t talked about is how to order 2 actions in time…
By action I mean information that is conveyed using a verb or better a sentence. My basketball game certainly was an action for me but grammatically I packed it as a noun, a thing.

  • I played basketball.

This is an example for what I mean when I say action. Now, Mike, could you give me 2 basic activities…
“Uh… let me think… erm… ok

  • Thomas reads.
  • Thomas listens to music.

is that ok?”
That’s perfect. Those are 2 actions and today we’ll learn how to communicate in which order they happen…. in all ways possible. Let’s look at some example in English.

  • Thomas reads before he listens to music.
  • Thomas listens to music after he reads.
  • Thomas reads. Then / after that he listens to music.
  • Thomas listens to music. Before, he reads.
  • Having read, Thomas listens to music.
  • Listening to music Thomas had already read.

“I don’t know about the last one… sounds kind of weird to me…”
Haha.. yeah maybe … that one is a little contrived but anyway… even without that we have quite a variety. And you have probably realized that all those sentences in fact imply the very same order of actions …
“To be honest… I didn’t but now that you say it…
so including other orders would give us even more examples. So let’s look at the big picture and organize things a little.

Some REALLY useful background

It is a universal fact that there are only 3 possible ways to order 2 actions in time.

  1. A happens before B happens.
  2. A happens while B happens.
  3. A happens after B happens.

My god… 3 configurations. That is an excessive number of configurations… too many for my taste. I like things simple. My beer cold, my coffee black and my temporal configurations less than 3.
So… time to be even more abstract. Valiant pigeons, orbiting the effervescent waters… she saw them, oh she certainly did see them all. the cabin Grew vegetables
“Sorry man but you just lost me… I think this was a bit too abstract for me….”
Really… hmmm … ok… so what I meant was, sentence 1 and 3 are basically the same … only the order of the actions (A and B) has been reversed. We could get along just fine in a world in which we only can express that something happened AFTER something because that does implicitly also tell us tha.. etc. etc. you get the idea.
So we can basically say, stuff happens simultaneously or not.
Got it.
Great. Now, before we start there is another tremendously important concept you need to understand… absorb, become one with…  The name I had in mind for this concept was Purple-Puppy-Paradox but some network executives overruled me on this one and told me to be a bit more “conventional”… so I have to call it the 2-way-theorem.
“That is so lame.”
Yeah I know, but what can I do… so…   the 2-way-theorem says that there are ALWAYS 2 ways to phrase relations between 2 actions, be it in the time domain or not… a minor-sentence way and a reference-way.
And I ain’t talkin’ about word order or synonyms here. I’m talking structure. Here is what I mean.

  • Because Thomas is tired he goes to bed.
  • Thomas is tired. Therefore he goes to bed.
  • Although he has to do homework Thomas does the dishes.
  • Thomas has to do homework. Nevertheless, he does the dishes.

The first version in each example  is one sentence. By adding a functional word like because or although one of the 2 actions has been „demoted“ to be a minor-sentence, or in jargon superdinosaur claws…. or something… not sure though… anyway, here is an example with time.

  • Thomas reads before he listens to music.

Without the functional word before „He listens to music.“ is a complete statement… with it, it is not. In fact, that whole part after before has pretty much the same status as a word like today. When does he read? Today. When does he read? Before he listens to music. The whole minor sentence is just one block of information filling the when-slot in the main sentence.

  • Thomas reads [insert time info here].

Now, in the second version,

  • Thomas reads. After that he listens to music.

we have 2 stand-alone sentences, one for each action. Of course the second sentence doesn’t make much sense without the first but that is on the content level. Grammatically it is a complete sentence. The words after that express the temporal order by making reference to whatever has been said before. Here, those 2 words occupy the when-slot in the sentence. We could replace them with today or any other time information.

  • [insert time info here], Thomas listens to music.

We could even insert the before-sentence from the first version there so after that is kind of a stand in for that.
Now, in the minor-sentence structure, I can take the whole before-sentence and move it to different positions… wherever I can fit in today, I could also fit in the before-stuff.

  • Thomas reads, before he listens to music.
  • Before he listens to music, Thomas reads.

So the order of actions is flexible in the minor sentence way. This is different  for the reference way. Most references in language do point backwards so they need something to point at.

  • After that Thomas listens to music. He reads.

This doesn’t make any sense, because the reference after that is pointing into the void and the second sentence just sits there without any connection whatsoever.
So… for any time configuration imaginable there will always be both structures available… the minor-sentence-way and the reference-way, each having it’s own specific functional word(s). Hence we always have pairs… for instance becausetherefore or beforeafter that.
And all I’ve just laid out holds for any language I know. Analyze your own and let me know if it doesn’t apply to yours. I would be surprised. So… Mike… you don’t look too confused so I assume I’ve been clear so far?
Yeah.. so far it was pretty logical…
 Cool… so, with all this in the back of our minds, we’re set to talk about German.

Actions happening simultaneously

Let’s take our first example again and say Thomas is a hell of a multi-tasker:

  • Thomas reads while he listens to music.

Now, what way is that? Right, it is the minor-sentence way with while being the functional word. The German word for while is während (yes, the same word as we use for during)

  • Thomas liest, während er Musik hört.

Mike you look confused.. let me guess, it is because of the word order??… well that is because just like weil or dass, während is what I call an intro-word. It makes a major sentence into a minor-sentence and causes the verb that was initially in position 2 to go to the very end of the phrase.

  • I was waiting for my bus.
  • I deleted a bunch of text messages.
  • While I was waiting for my bus I deleted a bunch of text messages from my phone.
  • Ich habe auf den Bus gewartet.
  • Ich habe ein paar SMS von meinem Handy gelöscht.
  • Während ich auf den Bus gewartet habe, habe ich einige SMSs von meinem Handy gelöscht.

Can I ask something?
Sure sure…
Ok… so while does have this other more comparing notion… does während have that, too.
Oh, that’s a good question… for the most part it does
, but there is one exception… it is kind of off topic though. I think I’ll just do a Word of the Day on während…
Oh ok… great…
So… während-while is the minor-sentence-way of expressing simultaneouityationnessship. Now let’s look at the corresponding reference-way.

  • Thomas reads. At the same time he listens to music.
  • Thomas reads. Simultaneously, He listens to music.
  • Marie cuts the onions. Meanwhile, Thomas prepares the meat.
  • Marie cuts the onion. In the meantime, Thomas prepares the meat.

As you can see, there is more than one possible functional term but the structure is the same in every case. I’d say the default counterpart of während is derweil.

  • Thomas liest. Derweil hört er Musik.

Other words are gleichzeitig (simultaneously), zur gleichen Zeit (at the same time), währenddessen (meanwhile) and in der Zwischenzeit (in the mean time). You can replace derweil with any of those words without having to alter word order. Grammatically they are synonyms. However, each word has a different notion and might sound weird in certain situations. I don’t want to discuss that in detail, though because it would be way to much.
Derweil works almost always and as for the rest… I linked each word to Linguee so you can see them in action and hopefully catch their vibe.:)

So our first couple of words is:

  • während – derweil  (zur gleichen Zeit / gleichzeitig / währenddessen).

And the blueprint for it would be this (lower case letter indicates that the verb has to be final in that part of the sentence.

  • A, während b.  =  Während b, A.            minor-sentence-way
  • A. Derweil B.                                                       reference-way

The während-derweil pair is used when both actions have a certain duration…. Like 2 cars that drive alongside each other for a while. But what if this is not the case, be it because one action is rather short or one is more of a state? Like here:

  • You called me. I locked my door.

Unless you have like dozens of locks it would be odd to say

  • You called while I was locking my door.

In English you would use either when or  as (likely in combination with right or just). When to use which… well, good thing I don’t have to explain that because I have no clue :)… for German it is simple, though.
When talking about the past use als, for all the rest use wenn.
I will focus on als here, but the same systematics apply to wenn, too.

  • You called as I was just locking my door.
  • Du hast angerufen als ich gerade die Tür abgeschlossen habe.
  • When she saw the price for the dress she knew she just had to buy it.
  • Als sie den Preis des Kleides sah, wusste sie, dass sie es einfach kaufen musste.
  • Ich war gerade unter der Dusche als plötzlich das Telefon klingelte.
  • I had been in the shower when suddenly the phone rang.

People use words like gerade, plötzlich or genau together with als to stress that it was really that very moment.
 Now, this was the minor-sentence-way. What about the other way, the reference-way? The default functional word in German is… da… yes, da... the most generic pointer there is.

  • I was locking my door. In that moment you called me.
  • Ich war gerade dabei die Tür abzuschliessen. Da hast du angerufen.
  • Ich war unter der Dusche. Da klingelte plötzlich das Telefon.
  • I was under the shower. It was then, that the phone rang.
  • She saw the price of the dress. It was then, that she knew she just had to buy it.
  • Sie sah den Preis des Kleides. Da wusste sie, sie musste es einfach kaufen.

An alternative for da is in diesem Moment (at that moment) but other than that I can’t really think of anything. So our second couple is:

  • als/wennda / in diesem Moment / etc.
  • Als / wenn a, B.             minor-sentence-way 
  • A. Da B.                                reference way

Actions happening in sequence

Let’s go back once more to Thomas and his leisure activity …
“Man, this guy sure reads a lot today…”
Haha, yes he does.

  • Thomas reads before he listens to music.

“Hold on, we had this in the beginning… this is the side-sentence way of phrasing things, right?”
Exactly. The functional word here is before and the German word for this is … bevor. Note that bevor is only the translation of THIS before. It is not the translation for, say, this:

  • Before diner I must finish work?

“Why not?
Well, the functions are different and German trends to have different words for different functions.
“Oh God, German is soooo organized…”
Before is especially versatile.

  • Before diner, I must finish work .   (preposition… would be vor in German)
  • Before I eat diner, I must finish work.      (subordinating conjunction … would be bevor in German)
  • I’ll eat diner, but before, I must finish work.      (temporal adverb… would be vorher in German)

So try to understand the function of a word and then learn the word that serves that certain purpose rather than just translating.
Anyways… bevor really can only be used to create a side sentence.

  • Thomas liest, bevor er Musik hört.
  • Before I brush my teeth, I usually check my mail.
  • Bevor ich mir die Zähne putze, gucke ich normalerweise meine Mails nach.
  • Before she went Thomas, Marie had been busy with her make up for almost 3 hours.
  • Marie war, bevor sie zu Thomas gefahren ist, fast 3 Stunden mit ihrem Make Up beschäftigt.

“Wow, that last one had a weird order…. do people actually talk like that?”
Well, not that much but , yeah… you can hear that … and definitely read it.
Now, this time there is actually another word in German that has the same function as bevorehe.
„Wait, that’s marriage isn’t it…???“
Ohhhhhh, THAT  is spelled with a capital E because it is a thing… die Ehe. With a small e it is a functional word meaning before
“Today is really driving me crazy… that is soooo random… I mean… WHYYYYYY?
Hehe… the bevor-ehe comes from the old Germanic ēr and this is related to … drumroll early…

  • Ehe ich mir die Zähne putze, gucke ich meine Mails nach.

Ehe has some sort of special notion to it which I can’t really explain, but in daily life you won’t need it anyway. Alright.
Now, on to the reference way.

  • Thomas reads. After that he listens to music.

Any ideas for other references?
“Oh… let me think… erm… yeah like then and thereafter.”
Yap, those were the ones I had in mi..
“Oh I got one more…subsequently…”
Good one! So… the default reference in German is danach… that’s right… one of the famous da-words and it is absolutely no surprise since its job here is to point.

  • Thomas liest. Danach hört er Musik.

Now, would this work?

  • Danach hört er Musik. Thomas liest.

“I guess not… like, danach is pointing backwards and there is nothing to point at there.
 Absolutely…. alternatives for danach are anschließend, which is pretty close to danach, daraufhin, which has a slight notion of reaction or response, or the generic dann, which is like the English then.

  • I check my mail. Then I brush my teeth.
  • Ich gucke meine Mails nach. Anschliessend putze ich mir die Zähne.
  • Der Manager präsentierte die Quartalszahlen. Daraufhin war erstmal lange Stille.
  • The manager presented the quarterly numbers. “Thereupon” (or more idiomatic: what followed/there) was a long silence.

So… the pair we have is this:

Bevor , ehe  –  danach, anschließend, dann, daraufhin

A, bevor /ehe B. Bevor / Ehe B, A. – A. Danach B.

With what we have learned so far we know already enough to express every combination of A and B imaginable. But there is one more pair we need to look at which is kind of mirroring bevor-danach. So Mike, can you take one more…
“Ha… I guess I have to… bring it on man…
So … for better comparison both versions of the minor-sentence-way back to

  • Before Thomas listens to music he reads
  • Thomas listens to music after he reads.

The German word that has the same function as this after is nachdem.

  • Thomas hört Musik, nachdem er gelesen hat.
  • Nachdem er gelesen hat, hört Thomas Musik.

There is no synonym for danach so we can move on to the references. A quick look at English first:

  • Thomas listens to music. Before (that) / (but) first / prior to that, he reads.

The default reference-word in German is vorher.

  • Thomas hört Musik. Vorher liest er.

Other options are davor, which is a stronger pointer than vorher and zuvor, which barely feels like a pointer at all.

  • Ich gehe heute ins Theater. Davor muss ich unbedingt nochmal nach Hause mich umziehen.
  • I’ll go to the theater today. Before that I really have to go home and change clothes.

Also words like erst, zuerst or zunächst can be used in this function, too… but not alone. The words themselves just qualify something as being the first action in a sequence but they don’t point. We need some sort of pointing, however, in order to connect our 2 sentences.

  • Thomas listens to music. First he reads.

This is weird. It sounds as if reading is the first step of his listening to music. Maybe he reads the booklet or something… I don’t know. So… we need form a connection somehow.
English uses either but or however.

  • Thomas listens to music. But first / however, first he reads.

Just based on the temporal order they express those constructions do mean the same as before that. Now, how is this done in German? Either with aber or with … doch, and the latter sounds much more bettererer.

  • Thomas hört Musik. Doch zuerst /zunächst liest er.
  • I want to take a bath, but first I do the dishes.
  • Ich will ein Bad nehmen, doch zuerst mache ich den Abwasch.

Alright… so where were we??? Oh yeah… the pairs. Our last pair is this:

  • Nachdemvorher / davor / zuvor / doch erst / doch zunächst / etc
  • A, nachdem b. 
  • A. Vorher B.

And to recap it once again, let’s look at all the different possibilities for 2 actions happening after one another.  My 2 actions are:

  • Ich habe gekocht.
  • Ich habe gegessen.

And here the combination.

  • Ich habe gekocht, bevor ich gegessen habe. (Bevor ich gegessen habe, habe ich gekocht. ; Ich habe, bevor ich gegessen habe, gekocht.)
  • Ich habe gekocht. Danach habe ich gegessen.
  • Nachdem ich gekocht habe, habe ich gegessen.(Ich habe gegessen, nachdem ich gekocht habe. ; Ich habe, nachdem ich gekocht habe, gegessen.)
    Ich habe gegessen. Vorher habe ich gekocht.

Keep in mind that using the wrong functional word doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. But it might reverse the order of things.

  • Ich habe gegessen. Vorher habe ich gekocht.
  • Ich habe gegessen, bevor ich gekocht habe.

The word order is almost identical and both functional words can mean before and still… it is NOT the same ;).
“Maannn… this is sooo confusing…
I know, don’t think about it too much. Just train a little.
A good exercise would be to come up with 2 basic actions and then just say all the versions and configurations there are. Here is one to et you started.

  • Ich telefoniere mit meiner Schwester.
  • Ich mache Hausaufgaben.

Sometimes one pair makes more sense than the other, but this is no different to English so I am sure you can figure that out :).

Lean English – clunky German

Now, in all these examples I have avoided one certain type of construction in English… the -ing ones. There is one to express that things are being done at the same time:

  • Listening to music, Thomas reads.

as well as one that puts the actions in a sequence.

  • Having read, Thomas listens to music.

Maybe they are not always purely temporal but they definitely always convey an order of actions. These lean constructions are are nice because they make things short and on point so it is no wonder that they are very common in English and in the Roman languages, too.
In German however they are not. Don’t get me wrong here! German does have the grammar necessary to do those kinds of things. Here they are:

  • Musik hörend liest Thomas.
  • Gelesen habend, hört Thomas Musik.

This is incredibly weird sounding. It is not wrong but that is just not how Germans talk. We don’t use these kind of constructions for everyday stuff. It is novel-lingo at best.

  • Ihre Pizza essend schlenderte Marie am Strand entlang und dachte an Thomas.
  • Eating her pizza, Marie was strolling along the beach and thought about Thomas.

This still has to be used with care. …  and as for spoken…I am pretty certain you can go weeks without hearing anything like that. In that respect German is really clunky. We always phrase actions using sentences… be they major or minor. So when you want to translate one of these -ing things to German, first rephrase it to the more basic less elegant way.

  • Seeing Thomas play with the kitten Marie suddenly realized that she had a crush on him.
  • As she saw Thomas play with the Kitten, Marie suddenly realized, that she had a crush on him.
  • Als/während Marie zusah, wie Thomas mit dem Kätzchen spielte, wurde ihr plötzlich klar, dass sie sich in ihn verguckt hatte.
  • Having been told to do the dishes, Thomas entered the kitchen with a frown.
  • As / after / because he had been told to do the dishes, Thomas entered the kitchen with a frown.
  • Nachdem / Weil ihm gesagt wurde den Abwasch zu machen, betrat die Küche mit einem Flunsch.
  • After hanging up the phone, John lighted a cigarette.
  • After he had hung up the phone, John lighted a cigarette.
  • Nachdem er aufgelegt hatte, zündete sich John eine Zigarette an..

In each example the German sentence is by far the longest and I am sure it seems unnecessarily long but this is how we talk. German loves verbs and puts verbs in an active mode whenever possible.
And this trait is not only bad… sure… for these examples here it might feel clunky but as soon as whatever you’re saying or writing gets a little more complex, having all the verbs in an active version actually makes it sound alive…

  • people do things and things happen

as opposed to

  • people doing things and things happening.

To me, there is no verb in the latter pair. It is just people and things and a description. This is why I sometimes find it hard to read English… because nothing seems to be going on. What is a succinct way of expressing yourself can backfire and make things sound stiff and technical….
This is my personal impression though and there is no right or wrong or better or worse. But you should really try to understand the German way of expressing things… when there is an action, we prefer to phrase it as such be no matter how long it is. So… Mike… you’re so quiet…
“Haha yeah… this was overwhelming… I’m afraid I wont be able to eat German for at least a week now..”
I know, I know… that was really a lot today but hey… having read all the other parts on time you should now be able to express ANYTHING time related in German…
“You mean except for the stuff you wanted to talk about in 5.2…
Oh that… yeah… except for that… I’ll do it … big big promise… so… this is it. This concludes the German is Easy Time Mini Series…
“… man, don’t make me cry… hahaha…. any idea what you’re gonna do next, yet?
Well, I was thinking either place or sentence structure… I might do both… anyway… Mike, thank you sooo much for being here today, it was really a pleasure.
“It was great man, thanks for having me…

And to the rest of you, thank you for listening. As always if you have a question, leave me a comment and I’ll try to answer it. I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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1 year ago

where can we categorize the twin “seit,seitdem” through your approach … they are temporal too
maybe in “wenn” side?

1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“Ich denke daran, seit ich dich kennengelernt habe.”
is an example in dict.cc dictionary .. maybe that is not common in the street!?

1 year ago
Reply to  Dr.Rami

anyway the question is where could i put “bis,seitdem”

1 year ago
Reply to  Dr.Rami

mean the twin is sorted as simultaneously as wenn or as wahrend or another thing

1 year ago
Reply to  Dr.Rami

i always forget that there is long time since you wrote the article

1 year ago
Reply to  Dr.Rami

i think i am over-thinking … ignore the question

1 year ago

ich schlafe gleich,damit ich morgen früh aufwache kann
ich schlafe gleich,weil ich morgen früh aufwache muss

what makes the kann-sentense a result and the muss-sentense the cause?
i can’t get the notion maybe because of my mother language

1 year ago

and an irrelevent question about damit as a conjunction
what is its twin adverb? are there any anyway?
ich schlafe gleich,damit ich morgen früh aufwache kann
ich wache morgen früh auf. (….) schlafe ich gleich

1 year ago

Are you planning to write something about place expressions soon, if i may ask?

3 years ago

Hi, Emanuel. Super useful content!! Thanks!!

Besides, I have a question:
Bevor , ehe – danach, anschließend, dann, daraufhin
A, bevor /ehe B. Bevor / Ehe B, A. – A. Danach B.

Should it be: A, bevor/ehe b. Bevor/Ehe b, A. instead? I mean, the finite verb is placed at the end of the sentence. Am I understanding it correctly?

4 years ago

hallo , can you please explain my doubt about während

(1) i think this sentence is perfectly right , what do you think
Ich habe für uns gekocht, während du dich geduscht hast

(2) i am not sure , wether this is correct or wrong , can you tell me .
Ich habe für uns gekocht, während du dich duschst

(3) here i am trying to connect two different tenses using ” während ” . as we do in english .
( I cooked for ourselves while you are taking shower)
Ich habe für uns gekocht, während du dich dusche

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

first big thanks for your reply , can you please correct three more sentence for me

(1) Ich hatte für uns gekocht, während du dich geduscht hattest

(2) Ich werde für uns kochen , während du dich duschen wirst

(3) Ich werde für uns gekocht haben , während du dich geduscht haben wirst

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

thank you soo much for your reply , but i have few more questions , when i compare your present reply and before reply , can you please clear that .

as you said in (2) , (( is grammatically correct, but noone would say that. People would say “während du dich duschst” )) , so then the sentence will be (( Ich werde für uns kochen , während du dich duschst ))

but before some hours ago , you only said that . (((während” needs the two events you’re relating to be in the same time period.)))) But in above one ( hauptsatz = futur , nebensatz = präsens ) .


4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

hallo ,
can you please tell me , wether the combination of this tenses with ( INDEM ) is correct or wrong .

90 % i think , the below 4 sentences are correct

(1) Präsens ,indem + Präsens

Ich bin sehr gesund , indem ich gemüse esse .

(2) futur , indem + Präsens

Sie werden gesund sein , indem sie gemüse essen .

(3) präteritum , indem + präteritum

Die frühenmenschen waren sehr stark und gesund , indem sie rohes fleich assen .

(4) perfect , indem + perfect

Er hat den Text gedruckt , indem er auf die Schaltfläche drucken gelickt hat .

(5) can you tell me , wether the combination of this tenses is possible or not (((( präteritum , indem + perfect )))) und ((( perfect , indem + präteritum ))) in any situation or with any example . i mean in this way . for example

Bevor ich das Restaurant eröffnet habe, musste ich mir Geld leihen.

Bevor ich Koch war, habe ich eine Ausbildung gemacht.

thank you soo much

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

so ,finally i came to an conclussion ,that , to indicate futur tense by almost all concetors . most of the time , hauptsatz uses futur tense and nebensatz uses present tense .

(1) if reverse of that is possible at any case with an connector (( i mean hauptsatz using present tense and nebensatz using futur tense to indicate futur ))))). if yes , can you please give an example

thank you

4 years ago

I have been following German-is-easy for a few years, but as I beginner I didn´t really understand a lot of what I was reading, I just started going through the posts again so that I can check the -done- boxes. I am finding that a lot of what was beyond comprehension a few years ago is a lot easier to understand when it is revisited. I would recommend to anyone who struggles to keep at it and to not give up. Emanuel, you have simplified a lot of grammar for me, for that I thank you! I am familiar with most of the terms, and have a fair knowledge of what they mean, but don´t always recognize them when I see them in a sentence. School was a looooong time ago for me :-) Your rephrasing and renaming of the dry blah blah blah terms has been a super breath of fresh air. Again, thanks for all your work and some day I will be able to post in German!

4 years ago

I really liked how you explained that German likes “action verbs” over “passive verbs”. So it would never use an “-ing” verb for an action if it can avoid it. Very good explanation. If only I can remember this…. :)

Emre Çakıcı
Emre Çakıcı
6 years ago

Hey Emanuel! I’ve been following your blog for more than a year and it’s definitely one of the most helpful sites on learning German. I’ve also been keeping an eye on the answers you’ve provided on german.stackexchange.com.

I’ve noticed this part on your article and took some time to think about it. You’ve mentioned that it was not possible to literally translate an after/before sentence in which the -ing form is used, and therefore turning the sentence into a “Subject-Verb” form would be much more useful.

So you suggest some paraphrasing like:

“After hanging up the phone, John lighted a cigarette.
After he had hung up the phone, John lighted a cigarette.
Nachdem er aufgelegt hatte, zündete sich John eine Zigarette an..”

A nice approach to keep in mind. But then I found out something like this:

(screenshot:comment image)

The question is:

Which of the following could you NOT say to mean “I listen to David Hasselhoff CDs while I jog”?

A Beim Joggen höre ich David Hasselhoff CDs.

B Während des Joggens höre ich David Hasselhoff CDs.

C Während ich jogge, höre ich David Hasselhoff CDs.

D Wegen dem Joggen höre ich David Hasselhoff CDs.

E Während dem Joggen höre ich David Hasselhoff CDs.

And the answer is D. So it says it’s possible to use any of them except for D.

B and E sound to me like : While jogging, I listen to David Hasselhoff CDs.
C sounds to me like: While I jog, I listen to David Hasselhoff CDs.

So it seems like it’s possible to make a literal translation for sentences with “while (or während)” , regardless of the sentence having an -ing form or not. The dative and the genitive cases seem to help.

Is it possible to stick with this approach and make a literal translation for “After hanging up the phone, John lighted a cigarette” without altering the sentence?

I know it’s been a long post, so thanks for taking the time to read and answer it :)

Emre Çakıcı
Emre Çakıcı
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Super helpful, a crystal clear answer :) thanks a lot. keep up the good work man :)

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“– Nachdem er abgewaschen hat, guckt Thomas fern.
is cleary talking about a one time event.”

So this a present activity, not a habit, correct? I’m a little confused about which tenses to use in sentences with “nachdem” and “bevor” when talking about the present or the future (in formal, written German). Do I understand it right that the sentence

– Nachdem er wäscht ab, guckt Thomas fern.

expresses a habit? And which tenses should I use with “bevor” and one-time present/future events?

Would be grateful for your help.

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thank you!

6 years ago

Doh … I remembered that you had done a post on während, and mentioned the while-comparison use, so I looked it up for the assignment I’m working on. But you didn’t discuss it after all! Can you please say something about it? Danke schön!

Oh also – as Jennifer says, we would say “in the shower” in the example you had, but FYI you can say “standing under the shower” when you are focussing on actually being under the flow of water.

1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Meinst du, es kann ähnlich wie “obwohl” funktionieren? “Während dieser Beitrag sowohl geil als auch sehr informativ war, bin ich mir noch nicht sicher, ob man ‘während’ so verwenden kann”?

1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ah, danke. Während ich hatte das Gefühl, dass “obwohl” besser gepasst hätte, ist mir kein besseres Beispiel eingefallen. Ich werde “während” so nicht aktiv benutzen, aber ja… gut zu wissen.

6 years ago

Just wanted to point out that in English it is “in the shower” not under. This was very informative. i will need to reread it and process. But I am happy to have found this blog and am following it!

Vielen Dank, Jennifer

7 years ago

Haha, ich denke, dass bevor die Erklärung vom Paar “bevor-danach”, hat “Mike” in (zu?) “Jim” geändert.

Otherwise, nice article and nice site! Danke für all Ihre klaren Erklärungen !

7 years ago

OK, reassure me: “I really have to go home and redress” (for “mich umziehen”) was a joke, right? I just don’t want any poor non-native English speakers to be led astray, because it looks plausible.

The “-ing” form compact phrases you mention exist in English tend to be pretty rare, especially in the spoken language. The one about Maria seeing Thomas play with the kitten is closest to something I can imagine somebody actually saying, and even that one sounds sort of written, if that makes sense. With the original example, you’d always have a preposition:

– Thomas listens to music while/when/after/before reading.

It’s really also considered much better style in modern English to favor active finite verbs too.

Great miniseries! Somehow in all my years with German, I never learned “vorhin” or “derweil.”

7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oops… I knew something wasn’t right there, but typing comments on an iPad is so laborious I didn’t bother to think about it. So much for my CELTA certificate.

You’re right, of course – there’s an implied subject and auxiliary verb in while/when constructions (“While [he is] reading”), but you can omit them. I would probably argue, though, that “before/after” with -ing forms really do act as prepositions with gerunds. There’s just no workable implied subject/verb set to insert: “after [he was] reading”? No way. I think it’s much more intuitive to think of it as “before/after the event of reading.” Probably a very silly set of hairs to split, given how many absurd things English does. At any rate, like I say, both spoken English and preferred writing style would be closer to German in these situations.

7 years ago

Hello (it’s me from the trotzdem topic who asked about vor, vorher etc.).
I’m enlightened – this was actually the best explanation of anything to do with German grammar I’ve ever read. But put simply, the difference between vor and bevor is vor would have to have a noun, and bevor an action. (Note, you put before diner, when it’s dinner.) I was thinking that nach also takes das Dativ, so how would I say “after I ate”, and then I realised it should be nachdem. So really, the pairs of “after” and “before” are – (vor – nach), (bevor, nachdem) and (vorher, danach). If I got that correct, I’m pleased :).
I don’t quite get the pairs you chose there (it doesn’t affect my overall understanding though). If I say “Nachdem ich gekocht habe, habe ich gegessen” as the minor sentence way, surely the reference way would be “Ich habe gekocht. Danach habe ich gegessen.” Derweil and waehrend follow my examples, the rest don’t.
Thanks again for the brilliant post.

8 years ago

Wonderful article. The more I read your articles the more German begins to make sense :D

So if I wanted to write : While/when I was doing my homework, my sister called me.

Would that be something like : Während ich meine Hausaufgaben machen war, hat meiner Schwester mich angerufen.

8 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ah I see. Since I have only been studying for a little while, I am still thinking in German but in terms of English, if that makes any sense. For instance I would never think you could just refer to the noun to mean “when I was in the process of doing this”. This is why your website is the best thing since buttered toast; you really help us think in terms of German. Also, thanks for the lightning fast reply :D

8 years ago

Ive me why I need to quit German and go back to studying Spanish. Lol. To produce a complex sentence is much work as evident in your final section. Also, that Nachdem, darauf, vorher, zuerst, erst is insane. Thanks for the nice write up

8 years ago

Here Are the typos I found – not many:
looking forward (to) the part we are

have been put in in reversed. !!!!!

guess, it is because (is)(of) the word order

Thereupon (there) was a long silence. Thereupon is rarely used

already enough to express (every) constellation imaginable. constellation should be construction I think. We only
use “constellation when referring to stars in the sky.

I have to say that I found this module hard going, partly because I felt that the subtleties are too soon for my level of german.


9 years ago

I also feel compelled to point out that what you refer to as “major” and “minor” sentences are called in English “independent” clauses and “dependent” clauses (or “subordinate” clauses, hence the use of a subordinating conjunction)—I have a feeling you know that already, though! Do the German words for these actually translate to “major” and “minor”?

9 years ago

This is an awesome post but I just wanted to point out that it’s interesting you say “ice bear.” I see know that the German is just that—Eisbär. Every language seems to have a different adjective for what in English we call a “polar bear.” In french they say “ours blanc”—white bear—and the scientific name is “Ursus maritimus,” or “maritime bear.”

9 years ago

Fantastic post. You continue to answer questions about German that I didn’t even realize I had. :) Looking forward to the sentence structure post(s). Keep up the good work!