years in german

How to talk about years in German

How useful is the ability to ask someone about their year of birth without understanding the answer in German?

Not very useful. 

Years are an essential tool to communicate with each other. 

They remind us about birthdays, anniversaries or holidays. They set milestones in history and help us distinguish and connect important events.

Let me show you how to talk about years in German. 

Basic vocabulary when Talking about Years in German.

Before we start to learn how to talk about the years in German, I’m going to show you some essential words you may need:

  • 🇩🇪 das/ein Jahr – 🇺🇸 a year 
  • 🇩🇪 das/ein Jahrzehnt – 🇺🇸 a decade
  • 🇩🇪 das/ein Jahrhundert – 🇺🇸 a century 
  • 🇩🇪 das/ein Jahrtausend – 🇺🇸 a millennium 
  • 🇩🇪 der/ein Jahreswechsel – 🇺🇸 turn of the year
  • 🇩🇪 das/ein Halbjahr – 🇺🇸 a half-year
  • 🇩🇪 die/eine Jahreszeit – 🇺🇸 a season (of the year)
  • 🇩🇪 der/ein Jahrestag – 🇺🇸 an anniversary

Here are some examples of how to use these words in a sentence:

🇩🇪 Ich wurde nicht nur im letzten Jahrhundert, sondern im letzten Jahrtausend geboren!
🇺🇸 I was not only born in the last century but in the last millennium!

🇩🇪 Ich will ihr zum Jahreswechsel einen Heiratsantrag machen.
🇺🇸 I want to make a marriage proposal to her at the turn of the year. 

🇩🇪 Was ist deine Lieblingsjahreszeit?
🇺🇸 What is your favorite season of the year?

🇩🇪 Der Vertrag verlängert sich automatisch um ein weiteres Jahr.
🇺🇸 The contract will be automatically extended by one further year.

Extra note: if you don’t want your contract to be extended and need to contact the customer service in German this article may be helpful.

All around the year in German.

Additionally, here are some handy phrases to express yourself more precisely when speaking about a year:

  • 🇩🇪 Seit einem Jahr – 🇺🇸 Since a year ago /For one year
  • 🇩🇪 In einem Jahr – 🇺🇸 In one year
  • 🇩🇪 Nach einem Jahr 🇺🇸 After one year 
  • 🇩🇪 Letztes Jahr 🇺🇸 last year
  • 🇩🇪 Nächstes Jahr – 🇺🇸 next year
  • 🇩🇪 Vor einem Jahr – 🇺🇸 one year ago

Important Numbers When Talking about Years in German

Talking about years, you need to have a good command of these numbers in German:

10zehn60sechzig
20zwanzig70siebzig
30dreißig80achtzig
40vierzig90neunzig
50fünfzig100hundert

You may have noticed – these numbers are structured similarly to the English ones. In English, you just take a digit like “six” and then put the ending “-ty” to it. The German ending for the numbers between 20 and 90 is “-zig”, with the exception of 30, which is written “-ßig”.

Before I explain to you how to say 1786 in German, you must look at the numbers between 10 and 20. They will be essential, too. 

But don’t worry, they also have a logical structure.

11elf16sechzehn
12zwölf17siebzehn
13dreizehn18achtzehn
14vierzehn19neunzehn
15fünfzehn

You can find the same English-German similarity here: while adding “-teen” to a digit in English, you do the same by adding “-zehn” to it in German. 

Now it is time to put them together. 

So, how do we say 1786? – Siebzehn-hundert-sechs-und-achtzig.

Let me explain. 

First, you name the century. Just like in English, but you additionally say “hundert”, which means “hundred”. Siebzehn-hundert therefore means seventeen-hundred.

Next, you say the decade and the exact year. It gets a little bit more tricky here. 

Saying “eighty-six,” you literally say “six-and-eighty” in German. 

But that’s already everything. You will probably understand it better with some more examples:

1472Vierzehn-hundert-zwei-und-siebzig
1643Sechzehn-hundert-drei-und-vierzig
1111 Elf-hundert-elf
1865 Achtzehn-hundert-fünf-und-sechzig
1998Neunzehn-hundert-acht-und-neunzig

Watch out – all the years from 2000 upwards are pronounced a little bit differently. For example, you don’t say “twenty-hundred-twenty-one”, but “two-thousand-twenty-one”. 

So 2021 will be “Zwei-Tausend-ein-und-zwanzig” in German.

You will almost always use the AD (“Anno Domini”) dates and years, but it is unnecessary to mention it daily. Unless you are a historian or need to know it for any other purpose, here’s how to say it in German: 

BCBefore Christvor Christus
AD Anno Domininach Christus (which literally means “after Christ”)

How to ask about years in German

🇩🇪 In welchem Jahr bist Du geboren?
🇺🇸 In which year were you born?

🇩🇪 Wie viele Jahre bist Du schon in Deutschland?
🇺🇸 How many years have you already been in Germany?

🇩🇪 Seit wann sind Deine Großeltern zusammen?
🇺🇸 Since when have your grandparents been together?

🇩🇪 Was hast Du nach Deinem Schulabschluss gemacht?
🇺🇸 What did you do after your school graduation?

🇩🇪 Wann ist euer Hochzeitstag?
🇺🇸 When is your wedding anniversary?

🇩🇪 Bis wann willst Du hier bleiben?
🇺🇸 How long do you want to stay here?

And how to answer these questions? Here are my suggestions:

🇩🇪 Ich wurde in 1992 (neunzehn-hundert-zwei-und-neunzig) geboren. 
🇺🇸 I was born in 1992. 

🇩🇪 Ich bin bereits sieben Jahre in Deutschland. 
🇺🇸 I have already been in Germany for seven years.

🇩🇪 Meine Großeltern sind seit 1966 (neunzehn-hundert-sechs-und-sechzig) zusammen.
🇺🇸 My grandparents have been together since 1966.

🇩🇪 Nach meinem Schulabschluss habe ich eine Weltreise gemacht.
🇺🇸 After my graduation, I went on a world trip. 

🇩🇪 Unser Hochzeitstag ist in Mai.
🇺🇸 Our wedding anniversary is in May. 

🇩🇪 Ich will hier noch drei Jahre bleiben.
🇺🇸 I want to stay here for three more years. 

For talking about a period of time, you have two possibilities how to describe it in German. You can use

🇩🇪 zwischen – 🇺🇸 between

or

🇩🇪 von … bis… – 🇺🇸 from… to… 

For example, you may say:

🇩🇪 Der Krieg dauerte von 1939 (neunzehn-hundert-neun-und-dreißig) bis 1945 (neunzehn-hundert-fünf-und-vierzig).
🇺🇸 The war lasted from 1939 to 1945. 

But it is also possible to say:

🇩🇪 Zwischen den Jahren 1939 und 1945 gab es einen Krieg.
🇺🇸 There was a war between the years 1939 and 1945.

It depends on what you want to express.

Decades in German

Sometimes it is not necessary to give an exact year. Sometimes it is a decade that describes the times better. Here is how to say them in German:

20s – 20er – Zwanziger
30s – 30er – Dreißiger
40s – 40er – Vierziger
50s – 50er – Fünfziger
60s – 60er – Sechziger 
70s – 70er – Siebziger
80s – 80er – Achtziger
90s – 90er – Neunziger

Talking about the period between the years 0 and 10, you have to say the century. For example, the years 2000-2009 will be the “2000s”, “2000er – Zweitausender” in German.

What about the years 10-19? People will probably understand when you say “10er – Zehner”, but it is an uncommon phrase. It’s better to say “the second decade of the century” – “die zweite Dekade des Jahrhunderts”.

By the way – watch out. A woman in the 70s is not necessarily in her 70s!

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Weronika Olszewska

Weronika Olszewska

Living and studying in Germany for as long as she can remember. German tutor by day, Italian learner by night. When she's not learning new languages, you can find her enjoying great rock bands on stage.

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