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
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.
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:
- A before B.
- 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.
- I brush my teeth after I eat dinner.
- I brush my teeth after dinner.
- 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.
And now I think we’re ready to go :)
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.
- 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 :)!!!
“You have to say that before (right away).”
“Das musst du ____ sagen.”
“Das musst du vorher sagen.”
“Yeah, but where were you after that? After you were at the bar…”
“Ja, aber wo warst du _____? _____ du in der Bar warst…”
“Ja, aber wo warst du danach? Nachdem du in der Bar warst…”
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.