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Which is more grammatically correct in this sentence:

Ich gehe abends meiner Uni um Deutsch zu lernen.

or

Ich gehe meiner Uni um Deutsch zu lernen abends.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The correct version of your sentence would be

Ich gehe abends an meine Uni, um Deutsch zu lernen.

It means that you usually go to the university in the evening. This could be a simple statement or an answer to Wann gehst du zur Uni, um Deutsch zu lernen? (When do you go to the university to learn German?)

You could also use this word order

Abends gehe ich an meine Uni, um Deutsch zu lernen.

The latter sentence could be an answer to the question: Was machst du abends? (What do usually do in the evening?)

abends is a temporal adverb and means zur Zeit des Abends; depending on the context it can also mean jeden Abend.

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1  
Can you say "Ich gehe abends zu meiner Uni, um Deutsch zu lernen." too? –  Johannes Schaub - litb Mar 25 '12 at 15:17
2  
@JohannesSchaub-litb yes, an / zu / in are all Common prepositions you can use with Universität. –  splattne Mar 25 '12 at 15:36

Without abends, the main clause of your sentence is

Ich gehe an meine Uni.

You want to say that you do this in the evening, so you have to put abends into this main clause. splattne already answered that you can put abends after the verb, and then add the subordinate clause:

Ich gehe abends an meine Uni, um Deutsch zu lernen.

You could also put abends at the beginning for emphasis; then you can to invert "ich gehe":

Abends gehe ich an meine Uni, um Deutsch zu lernen.

It is not possible to put abends at the end of the main clause, as you can do it in English:

I go to my university in the evening to learn German.

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A more general answer:

Germans like to have their time information as soon as possible. Place is what we care least about. To a certain degree there is freedom.

..., um Deutsch zu lernen.

This part answers to "what for" or "why". It is still possible to give that information before the time as in:

Um Deutsch zu lernen gehe ich abends in die Uni.

But putting place before time will sound really strange. It might be correct but think of it as shining a very bright spot on your sentence... you need to have a GOOD reason to say it that way because every German will be highly irritated. A possible example would be if someone says:

So... usually you go to university during daytime right? (Also... du gehst normalweise tagsüber zur Uni, richtig?) Nein, zur Uni gehe ich ABENDS. Am Tag bin ich auf Arbeit.

You pick up the local information and say it right away with the effect that you have a better connection to the sentence of the other person said. If you were to start with "Nein, abends..." there would be no real reason to say the place again and it would be a little tiny bit superfluous. The stress in both version will be on abends and it will be indicated by a strong emphasis on it in melody, rhythm and volume.

Bottom line: Do say time asap, place alap (as late as possible), unless you have a reason to do otherwise... simply putting a stress on the place won't be enough.

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Agreed. Typically the word order is taught as time, place, and then manner (such as with whom, etc.). –  Kevin Mar 25 '12 at 19:43
    
Oh usually it should be time-manner-place... in the example above the manner-info is a subordinate clause. Those are kind of not covered by the rule as they tend to be before or after the main clause... or inside if they are relative sentences of if both slots in front and after the main clause are already used. A time subord sentence can very well be at the end of the whole thing without evoking any special attention. The main reason for that is that it is easier to comprehend when the main sentence is not split ... especially when it is short –  Emanuel Mar 25 '12 at 19:49

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