“vor” or “bevor” and more – A big Exercise

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German intensive summer boot camp.
Yeah, I know. You didn’t want this. You just wanted to relax, read a bit about a word, some examples, some history, some dumb jokes. But nope. Today it’s your turn.
So put on your sweatpants and get ready for a hefty work out about

Time Words

Or to be a little more specific

bevor or vor  and other tricky words

Mixing up vor and bevor and also davor is a really common mistake; for beginners as well as advanced learners. And it’s the same story for nach, danach and nachdem.
Today, we’ll train exactly that… when to use which.

We’ve talked about this stuff in details in the mini series on time in German, particularly part 1, 5 and 6.
If you want to check those out, you can find them here on the course page.

But let’s go over it together real quick and see why we make mistakes and what we need to know to not make them anymore.

The theory

You can skip right to the exercise, if you’re confident.  The purpose of the words I mentioned is to order things in time. We have two actions, A and B, and they don’t happen at the same time. Or in other words, one happens earlier than the other.
And there are two perspectives we can look at this:

  1. before B.
  2. B after A.

The order of events is the same in both sentences. A is the earlier event. But we’re using different points of reference to express that.
Now, we have two points of view and two words. Just perfect, right? I’m sure you agree.
But German doesn’t. German is like
“I soooo need more words for this.”
Of course, you’re wondering why? And the reason is grammatical function.
There’s actually three ways to phrase a perspective.

  1. I brush my teeth after I eat dinner.
  2. I brush my teeth after dinner.
  3. I eat dinner. I’ll brush my teeth after. 

And the colors kind of point toward the crucial differences.
In example number one, after connects a sentence, a verb. In sentence two, it connects an entity, a thing (dinner). And in sentence three, it connects nothing, but instead it is a stand-alone reference.
These are three absolutely distinct grammatical functions. The first one is a (subordinating) conjunction, the second one is a preposition and the last one is a temporal adverb.
If those jargon terms don’t tell you much, don’t worry. What matters is that you understand that you’re looking at distinct functions.
Because German, pedantic as it is, wants a distinct word for each function. That’s why we have to deal with six words in total

bevor and nachdem                    : connect a verbs/sentences
vor     and nach                           : connect a nouns
davor/vorher and danach    :  a stand-alone reference

Now, if you’re not a you’re a real grammar nerd or you have a similar distinction in your language, then this distinction doesn’t come naturally to you at all.
And that’s exactly why we’re doing this exercise to you. The goal is not that you won’t make mistakes anymore, after. The main goal is to sensitize you for the difference. Raising awareness and understanding, if you will. Because once you really understand the distinction, you will start to “feel” it, develop an intuition for it.
Some of the examples are REALLY similar so the differences are really obvious.

Cool. So let’s paraphrase the distinctions again:

If before or after refer to something happening, then you need bevor or nachdem.

  • before I go to bed
  • after I wash my hands

If they refer to a noun, then you need vor or nach

  • before dinner
  • after class

And if before or after stand alone and refer to a prior sentence, or if they are combined with it/that, then use davor/vorher or danach.

  • I’ll come. But before (that), I want to sleep.
  • I eat. I’ll sleep after (that).

A special case are -ing forms in English, the so called gerunds. They tend to be translated to a normal sentence in German, but if they’re really just the -ing-form you can use a noun.

  • Before eating I wash my hands.
  • Vor dem Essen wasche ich mir die Hände.
  • Before eating my pizza, I wash my hands.
  • Bevor ich meine Pizza esse, wasche ich…
  • Vor dem Essen meiner Pizza…. grammatically correct, but no one talks that way.

Oh, and one quick word about vorher and davor which both mean before (that) and they’re pretty similar. Davor is more “pointy” and the real before that while vorher leans toward first. Like… I’m gonna do B but first I want to do A. If you mix these two up, it’s not a big deal.

Cool.
And now I think we’re ready to go :)

The exercise

I’ll give you a sentence in English with before or after (or both) in it.
Option one for you is to translate them to German.
You can use the text field for your version, but it doesn’t check what you enter :). It’s just so you can compare.
The solution is in the audio and you can also see it by clicking the circle O.

If translating them is too much, then just click the “?” icon and you’ll see the German version with a gap, so you just have to pick the right word.
Remember:

  • bevor and nachdem are used for verbs
  • vor and nach are for nouns
  • davor/vorher and danach are used as a stand-alone

Viel Erfolg :)!!!

***

1.
Before Maria meditates she does yoga.
____ Maria meditiert, macht sie Yoga.
Bevor Maria meditiert, macht sie Yoga.

2.
Before meditating/the meditation, Maria turns off her phone.
____ dem Meditieren macht Maria ihr Handy aus.
Vor dem Meditieren macht Maria ihr Handy aus.

3.
I want to drink an espresso in peace before I start working.
Ich will in Ruhe einen Espresso trinken, ____ ich anfange zu arbeiten.
Ich will in Ruhe einen Espresso trinken, bevor ich anfange zu arbeiten.

4.
“I actually wanted to pay by card.”
“You have to say that before (right away).”
“Ich wollte eigentlich mit Karte zahlen.”
“Das musst du ____ sagen.”
“Ich wollte eigentlich mit Karte zahlen.”
“Das musst du vorher sagen.”

5.
Before Thomas came, the party was really cool.
____ Thomas gekommen ist, war die Party echt cool.
Bevor Thomas gekommen ist, war die Party echt cool.

6.
Italians like to do “aperitivo” before dinner.
Italiener machen ____ dem Abendessen gern “Aperitivo”.
Italiener machen vor dem Abendessen gern “Aperitivo”.

7.
Thomas really wants to fall asleep before the opera begins.
Thomas will unbedingt einschlafen, ____ die Oper anfängt.
Thomas will unbedingt einschlafen, bevor die Oper anfängt.

8.
The movie was awful, but I already knew that before.
Der Film war furchtbar, aber das wusste ich schon ____ .
Der Film war furchtbar, aber das wusste ich schon vorher.

9.
Maria is very nervous before her date.
Maria ist ____ ihrem Date sehr aufgeregt.
Maria ist vor ihrem Date sehr aufgeregt.

10.
Thomas always drinks an espresso before work.
____ der Arbeit trinkt Thomas immer einen Kaffee.
Vor der Arbeit trinkt Thomas immer einen Kaffee.

11.
Thomas always drinks an espresso before he starts working.
Thomas trinkt immer einen Espresso, ____ er anfängt zu arbeiten.
Thomas trinkt immer einen Espresso, bevor er anfängt zu arbeiten.

12.
Thomas has commenced working. Before that, he drank an espresso.
Thomas hat angefangen zu arbeiten. ____ hat er einen Espresso getrunken.
Thomas hat angefangen zu arbeiten. Davor hat er einen Espresso getrunken.

13.
You shouldn’t eat pasta before you work out.
Man sollte keine Pasta essen, ____ man trainiert.
Man sollte keine Pasta essen, bevor man trainiert.

14.
You shouldn’t eat pasta before the work out.
Man sollte ____ dem Training keine Pasta essen.
Man sollte vor dem Training keine Pasta essen.

15.
The work out is very demanding. That’s why you shouldn’t eat pasta before.
Das Training ist sehr anstrengend. Deshalb sollte man ____ keine Pasta essen.
Das Training ist sehr anstrengend. Deshalb sollte man davor/vorher keine Pasta essen.

16.
After eating you should rest or do 1000 steps.
____ dem Essen soll man ruhen, oder 1000 Schritte tun.
Nach dem Essen soll man ruhen, oder 1000 Schritte tun.

17.
First, I talk. The thinking comes after.
Erst rede ich. Das Denken kommt ____.
Erst rede ich. Das Denken kommt danach.

18.
After Maria has done yoga, she meditates.
____ Maria Yoga gemacht hat, meditiert sie.
Nachdem Maria Yoga gemacht hat, meditiert sie.

19.
Maria always drinks a smoothie after the work out.
Maria trinkt ____ dem Training immer einen Smoothie.
Maria trinkt nach dem Training immer einen Smoothie.

20.
Maria always drinks a smoothie after she has worked out.
Maria trinkt immer einen Smoothie ____ sie trainiert hat.
Maria trinkt immer einen Smoothie nachdem sie trainiert hat.

21.
Maria works out four times a week. After that, she always drinks a smoothie.
Maria trainiert vier mal pro Woche. ____ trinkt sie immer einen Smoothie.
Maria trainiert vier mal pro Woche. Danach trinkt sie immer einen Smoothie.

22.
The birthday party was cool. The day after not so much.
Die Geburtstagsparty war cool. Der Tag ____ nicht so sehr.
Die Geburtstagsparty war cool. Der Tag danach nicht so sehr.

23.
The day after the party wasn’t so cool
Der Tag ____ der Party war nicht so cool.
Der Tag nach der Party war nicht so cool.

24.
“I was at the bar after work, having a drink.”
“Yeah, but where were you after that? After you were at the bar…”
“Ich war ____ der Arbeit in der Bar, was trinken.”
“Ja, aber wo warst du _____? _____ du in der Bar warst…”
“Ich war nach der Arbeit in der Bar, was trinken.”
“Ja, aber wo warst du danach? Nachdem du in der Bar warst…”

25.
After the unicorn listened to Alan’s arguments, it eats one kilogram of beef tartar.
____ sich das Einhorn die Alans Argumente angehört hat, isst es ein Kilo Rinder-Tartar.
Nachdem sich das Einhorn die Alans Argumente angehört hat, isst es ein Kilo Rinder-Tartar.

26.
You don’t know before, what you’ll think after.
_____ weiß man nicht, was man ____ denkt.
Vorher weiß man nicht, was man danach denkt.

27.
After the game is before the game.
____ dem Spiel ist ____ dem Spiel.
Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel. (very common German soccer wisdom)

28.
I can’t decide whether I shower before dinner or after.
Ich kann mich nicht entscheiden, ob ich ____ dem Abendessen dusche, oder ____.
Ich kann mich nicht entscheiden, ob ich vor dem Abendessen dusche, oder danach.

29.
I can’t decide whether I shower after dinner or before.
Ich kann mich nicht entscheiden, ob ich ____ dem Abendessen dusche oder ____ .
Ich kann mich nicht entscheiden, ob ich nach dem Abendessen dusche oder davor.

30.
I can’t decide whether I shower before or after dinner.
Ich kann mich nicht entscheiden, ob ich ____ oder ____ dem Abendessen dusche.
Ich kann mich nicht entscheiden, ob ich vor oder nach dem Abendessen dusche.

***

Yeay!!! You made it!!!
How did you do? Was it hard or easy? Where there any that you struggled with in particular? Let me know all your questions in the comments and I’ll try to clear them up there.
Hope you enjoyed this and see you next time.

 

for members :)

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demoneyes136
demoneyes136

Brilliant, danke. I didn’t even know there was a difference, at least for vor/bevor and nach/nachdem, far less understand or explain what it was. But now I do and I can. Well-explained!

Bosko
Bosko

Emanuel, ich denke, dass du der beste Lehrer in der Welt bist! :) danke

fremdsprachenichtmehr
fremdsprachenichtmehr

Vielen Dank, das ist sehr hilfreich!

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak

Some workout!

Francesca Greenoak

The third category applies if you can say …beforehand or …afterwards

Anonymous
Anonymous

I’m SO very relieved to see that perhaps even a linguistic expert can get a trailing “t” and a “d” inadvertently switched around between individual words in the two languages! Presumably due to differing pronunciations. At least, that’s what I’m going keep telling myself even if there’s a different explanation, so don’t even try to dampen my elation by claiming fat-fingers … or …. you did it purposefully so that hard headed slow learning novices like myself might feel better about their progress, etc etc ;-)
Unless there’s a usage or meaning of the word I’m not familiar with, I think you meant “squats”, and if you did do it on purpose, you’re an incredibly ingenious and subtly supportive teacher! Thank you! I needed that.
“You have to sweat, solve tasks and do squads (optional).”

Sandra Alvarez
Sandra Alvarez

My fiancee is a native German speaker and this is a common error for them. She constantly mixes up words like ‘content’ with ‘contend’. I smiled when I saw ‘squads’ in the introduction because I know she would do the exact same thing :)

Napay1
Napay1

I did it well, but I translated some phrases very different.

My tongue hurts.

More of this, please.

Aly
Aly

What about zuvor :(((

Alexander
Alexander

Indeed, I’d like to read about zuvor!
In fact, it was the only variant introduced by my first German tutor, and then when I changed a tutor it turned out that it’s not that widespread word. Actually, the second tutor didn’t know it at all.

crittermonster
crittermonster

My only difficulty was choosing between “vorher” and “davor”. Can you elaborate “pointy”? Does pointy mean you are referring to a specific incident?

Peter Lobl
Peter Lobl

“First, I talk. The thinking comes after.
Erst rede ich. Das Denken kommt danach.”

If I use ‘nachher’ instead of ‘danach’, is it incorrect? If ok to use, would it be more general, further down the road, a not-defined “afterwards” as opposed to being items in a list: 1) i talk 2) you think.

good stuff as always !!

ps video on the you tube with u ass-kickin at prenzlauer was monstrously epic

Barbara
Barbara

Greta test, I think I have it. In question 28 why is the “danach” not “nach” as it refers directly to the verb. It looks the same as in question 30 “vor”. Perhaps it is the location of the word, as it could possibly end with a different activity eg “before dinner or after …tennis”? But if we use “nach” this would make it clear that it refers to the dinner, no?

berlingrabers
berlingrabers

OK, now I’m curious: what’s the theoretical German word for “smoothie” that determines the gender of “der Smoothie” as masculine?

C J
C J

Excellent article! This kind of work is why I love your blog. The sort of “big grammar” one fi ds in class is important, but rarely did I have a teacher who would/could take the time for the nuances.
Question: is bevor not one of the words which kicks the verb to the end? Number 3 has the answer ending with: “…bevor ich anfange zu arbeiten”.
My answer was:
“Ich will einen Espresso in Ruhe trinken, bevor ich mit der Arbeit anfänge.”
Is the difference here that there is a zu + infinitive construction included, and maybe it’s one of the few times the verb would normally be at the end, but isn’t?

Alan
Alan

Nachdem das Einhorn Rindertatar gegessen hatte, bekam es BSE.
I really struggled with this but thank you. Good work out.

Elsa
Elsa

Hiya,
Typos:
“So get put on your sweatpants and get ready for a hefty work out about” (you have a get too many)
“I those jargon terms don’t tell you much” (if, not I)
Only two typos!!! I’m sure I’ll make a hell of a lot more mistakes when I attempt the exercise (which I won’t do yet, as I’m swamped with work at the moment!)
This is a GREAT article, time stuff is really tricky and here you’ve made it easy!!!
If I have doubts (which I’m sure I will), I’ll ask you when you do your next post :)
Oh, and does this mean you have now finished your time series?
Bis bald!

Roberto
Roberto

Hallo Emmanuel! Vielen Dank! Bevor ich diese Úbung gemacht hatte, kannte ich nicht den Unterschied. Die war zwar sehr nützlich. Nur eine Frage: In 4 habe ich “du musst ja davor sagen” geantwortet. Ist es egal?

Romina
Romina

Jeden Tag, vor und nach dem Abendessen, übe Ich mein Deutsch. Vorher, habe ich nicht so oft geübt, aber nachdem ich den Blog von Emanuel entdeckt habe, fand ich den Prozess des Lernens viel interessanter. Nach diesem Kommentar werde ich weiterüben, aber nich bevor ich einen Espresso trinke ;-)

Borislav
Borislav

Hallo Emanuel,

Was ist der Unterschied zwischen sich entscheiden und entscheiden? Die beiden, meine ich, bedeuten to decide.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin

LOUSY at translating! Could only translate the first one and first part of the last three. Pitiful. HOWEVER: I got most of the bevor/vor etc correct. Only “switched” the answers to 8 and 12. Trying to pound it in now, but seems like it’s a feeling that will hone itself with time. It was a GREAT work-out! Thank you!

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri

Merci Cher Emmanuel et idem pour ton adorable assistante. Je trouve très injuste de critiquer ton travail de maniere malveillante . Des termes lamentables et pitoyable ( Lousy, Pitiful ) sont mal placés . Vous apprenez l’allemand et non anglais americain . Je souhaite le préciser.
Excellent travail et merci sincèrement.

Elsa
Elsa

Personne ici ne critique le travail d’Emanuel. Amerikanerin a dit qu’elle a eu des dificultés avec la traduction, pas Emanuel!
De plus, tout le monde fait des petits erreurs et c’est pas du tout mal de s’entraider, même quand it ne s’agit pas de l’allemand!

marius
marius

Sehr gut. Sehr hilfreich. Danke.