German Grammar: am / um / um

Three little words that are so similar but so different (and cause so much confusion :roll_eyes: :grinning:)

But let’s have a closer look at each one of them:

am” is actually a combination of the words “an dem” (at the). It’s used to describe being at a certain place, which means it’s always linked with Dativ. Would you like to see some examples? Here they are!

  • Ich warte am Bahnhof auf dich. (I’ll wait for you at the main station.) :steam_locomotive:
  • Wir grillen heute am See! (Today we are barbecuing at the lake.) :meat_on_bone:
  • Du arbeitest am neuen Projekt. (You’re working on the new project.) :triumph:

Very similar to “am” is “im”, which is composed of “in” and “dem” (“in” + “the”). It shows that you are in a certain place or indicates a certain time. Let’s put it into practice!

  • Im Haus ist es sehr warm. (It’s very warm in / inside the house.) :fire:
  • Sarah taucht gern im Roten Meer. (Sarah likes to dive in the Red Sea.) :swimming_woman:t4:
  • Im Winter gibt es in Kanada viel Schnee. (There’s a lot of snow in winter in Canada.) :cloud_with_snow:

The preposition “um” is different from the other two. “um” has two meanings. It refers to a certain time (“at” 2 pm) and can also mean “around” when talking about a place. Have a look at the following examples:

  • Wir treffen uns um 18 Uhr. (We’ll meet at 6 pm.) :clock6:
  • Ich habe heute um 14:30 Uhr einen Arzttermin. (Today I have a medical appointment at 2:30 pm.) :syringe:
  • Die Stühle stehen um den Tisch. (The chairs are around the table.) :chair:
  • Morgen laufen wir um den See. (Tomorrow we’ll walk around the lake.) :running_woman:t4:

Great! Now you know how to use those three tricky little prepositions. What about forming a sentence where all three prepositions appear? Just try it! :muscle:t4: :hugs:


This got me thinking about “um” for the first time in my life :sweat_smile:
Reading this, I began to wonder why you left out its meaning of giving a reason (e.g., “Ich lerne Deutsch, um einen Job in Deutschland zu finden”). I wasn’t sure if you didn’t mention it because it may no longer be a preposition when it’s used that way :thinking: So I consulted my good friend Google. I still don’t know if “um” is always a preposition or considered some other word class when you use it to give a reason, but I stumbled upon a very informative site which might be interesting for students interested in “um”:

1 Like

@ameliea I didn’t mention the preposition “um … zu …” because I didn’t want to cause confusion. But the website you linked is great, showing the much more extensive meaning of “um”. :clap:t4:

1 Like

That makes sense :smiley: