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 time expressions. So I made this infographic which I hope will help a bit.

im

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?

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

  1. Hasan al imam says:

    Ich bin am 8 januar 1982 geboren

  2. The Blocked Dwarf says:

    Baujahr ’68 -tüv ist fällig!

    • Baujahr ’68 ist noch jung und fährt noch lange. Was älter ist, fährt auch gut, muss aber manchmal in die Werkstatt oder braucht ein bisschen mehr Benzin oder Öl 😉

      • The Blocked Dwarf says:

        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?)

  3. andrew says:

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

    • 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’

  4. Mehdi says:

    hello can I say for example:
    “ich hatte mein Abitur im jahr 2013?”
    ist das richtig?

  5. Zeeshan says:

    Hallo.

    Guten Tag!

    why we are using am for place.

    Ich wohne am Adalbert-Stifter-Platz.

    Danke.

    • 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.

  6. Rick Thwaites says:

    Ich bin im Urlaub zwichen 17. und 24. August. Why not am Urlaub?

    • 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.

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