Help, I don’t know when to use im, am or um!

how to purchase prednisone Help, I don't know when to use im, am or um! Im, am, um – three little words that can cause so much trouble.

I often hear students use the wrong word when they need to use one of the prepositions in (in+dem=im), an (an+dem=am) and um (um+dem=um) when they are used for Nidadavole time expressions. So I made this infographic which I hope will help a bit.


To recap:

We use “im” when we talk about seasons or months.

  • Mein Geburtstag ist im Sommer.
  • Mein Geburtstag ist im Juli.

We use “am” when we talk about days and times of the day.

  • Ich bin am 24. Juli geboren.
  • Ich bin am Donnerstag geboren.
  • Ich bin am Morgen geboren.

We use “um” when we talk about the exact time.

  • Ich bin um 8 Uhr geboren.

When we talk about years we don’t need a preposition, so ‘In 2006 I started Angelika’s German’ would just be ‘2006 began ich Angelika’s German.’  Only if we talk about ancient, important years we use ‘im Jahre’, for example ‘Goethe starb im Jahre 1852’.

So, I could complete all my birthday sentences by telling you in which year I was born, but that’s so long ago I would have to start with ‘Im Jahre …’ which I won’t 😉

Can you tell me when you were born?

25 thoughts on “Help, I don’t know when to use im, am or um!

      1. A ’68 British build car will have gone to that Schrottplatz in the sky a couple of decades ago. Ein Auto, Baujahr’68, aus deutscher Herstellung dagegen haelt bis Sankt Nimmerleins (A small Austrian town perchance?)

  1. how about this?: Handelt sich um eine “Import-Kamera” – that translates to: Is it an “import camera”

    1. Ah nice, you spotted an “um” which isn’t a time phrase. The translation is correct, although I would have said “Is it about an ‘import camera’. The German phrase is “sich um etwas handeln”. And that would be translated as ‘to be about sth’

    1. This ‘am’ also isn’t a time phrase. When we live in a square rather than a street we us ‘an’ instead of ‘in’. As we’re positioned there we need the dative case. So, ‘der Platz’ changes to ‘dem Platz’ and an & dem gets shorted to am.
      I hope that makes sense.

    1. That’s the problem with prepositions in general, they don’t always translate literally. So, although ‘an’ on its own means ‘on’, ‘on holidays’ is ‘im Urlaub’. That’s what we say in German, we are in holidays, not on holidays.
      So, if you ever hear a German say in English ‘We’re in holidays’ you’ll know that they are struggling with prepositions, too.

  2. Duolingo says I must use am Mittag but um Mitternacht. Is this a mistake or is Mittag not specific enough for um?

    1. Um Mitternacht is a time phrase as it’s exactly at midnight. Mittag covers the time around midday, so is not precicely at noon and, like you said, not sprecific enough. I have to admit that I just googled ‘am Mittag’ as I’ve never heard it being used. We always use ‘zu Mittag’, but my Google search told me there are people/ areas where am Mittag is used instead of mittags.

  3. Hallo – I notice im is also used in this sentence for e.g. Die Familie ist im Haus which is not month/season/year context. Is this just an exception?

    1. That sentence is correct but in that case ‘im’ is not a time expression. There are lots of sentences where ‘im’ is not a time expression, but my post is not about the usage of ‘im’ in general. It’s only about time as people often get im, am & um wrong when talking about time.

    1. ‘Am Bahnhof’ isn’t a time phrase like the im, um and am in my post.
      And it’s am Bahnhog or am Zoo because both nouns are masculine. IF the noun is neuter it’s also am (e.g. am Hotel) If the noun is feminine, you can use an der, for example, an der Schule.

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