English to German – Episode 7: Time and Occupations

Daniel Sep 15


Welcome to the “English to German” series. In our previous episode, we covered the topic of “Travel and Transportation.” Today, we delve into two fundamental aspects of conversation – time and occupations. These subjects are vital in day-to-day interactions, hence essential to master in German.

Telling the Time

To convey the time (die Uhrzeit) in German, you’ll first need to grasp the numbers, which we covered in Episode 4. Let’s review some basic structures:

  • Es ist ein Uhr. (It is one o’clock.)
  • Es ist zwei Uhr. (It is two o’clock.)

When indicating half-hours, German usage differs slightly from English:

  • Es ist halb drei. (It is half past two.) Note: in German, ‘half’ signifies the half hour leading to the next hour, not away from the previous hour. For minutes, we use nach (after) and vor (before):
  • Es ist fünf nach zwei. (It’s five past two.)
  • Es ist zehn vor drei. (It’s ten to three.)

Times of the Day

Delving deeper into time, Germans often denote specific parts of the day. This is especially handy in setting appointments or scheduling events.

  • Morgens: “in the morning”, spanning from dawn to around 11 AM.
  • Mittags: “around noon”, typically stretching from 11 AM to 2 PM.
  • Nachmittags: “in the afternoon”, picks up post-lunch and lasts till about 5 or 6 PM.
  • Abends: “in the evening”, starts from 6 PM and lasts until bedtime.
  • Nachts: signifies the late hours, from bedtime till dawn.


Diving into occupations (Berufe), here are some you’ll likely come across:

  • Lehrer (Teacher)
  • Arzt (Doctor)
  • Ingenieur (Engineer)
  • Koch (Cook)
  • Polizist (Policeman)
  • Feuerwehrmann (Firefighter)
  • Künstler (Artist)
  • Musiker (Musician)
  • Schauspieler (Actor)
  • Student (Student).

Occupational Etiquette in Germany

While discussing occupations, it’s important to be aware of the professional etiquette in Germany. Germans typically address colleagues by their surname, denoting respect and formality. For example, if you meet a doctor, you might greet them as “Herr Doktor Müller” or “Frau Doktor Schmidt”.

As relationships evolve and become more informal, you might transition to first-name terms. However, it’s always wise to follow the lead of your German counterparts in these matters.

Weekend and Leisure Activities

Exploring the German lifestyle further, weekends (Wochenenden) are precious for most Germans. They offer a balance of relaxation and activity. Common activities include hiking (Wandern), attending cultural events like theater (Theater) or concerts (Konzerte), and spending quality time in nature or with family.

The Punctuality Paradigm

Punctuality (Pünktlichkeit) holds paramount importance in German culture. This precision in timing isn’t just limited to professional settings, but also reflects in daily life. If a German tells you they’ll meet you at 3 PM, it’s wise to be there by 2:55 PM.

This meticulous approach to time is deeply embedded and is seen as a sign of respect and professionalism. If you’re ever running late in Germany, it’s considered courteous to call ahead and let the person know.

Vocational Training in Germany

Germany is globally renowned for its dual vocational training system. Young adults, post their basic education, often opt for an apprenticeship (Ausbildung) program.

This system combines classroom studies with hands-on work experience. Occupations like mechanics, electricians, and chefs often benefit from this. It not only equips them with theoretical knowledge but also provides practical skills, ensuring they are job-ready.

This is a cornerstone of Germany’s success in producing skilled professionals.


For this lesson’s practice segment, why not craft sentences conveying time and discussing occupations? Perhaps mention when you typically start work or when your favorite show airs.

Stay tuned for our next episode where we will explore “Cities and Directions”. Your journey into the German language is only getting started!

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