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What is the difference between "um" and "am" in German?

e.g. um 8 Uhr vs am 8 Uhr

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1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

am 8 Uhr is wrong, um 8 Uhr is correct. The prepositions in use with times of the day are

  • um = exactly that time
  • gegen = approximately that time
  • vor = before/in advance
  • nach = after

The preposition am is used instead of um for dates e.g. am 9. April.

Note that um […] herum may also be used for expressing a loose time approximation (e.g. Er wollte um den 10.7. herum mal vorbeikommen).

Besides, um can also be used in non-time-circumstances, e.g. as a local preposition or as demanded by a verb.

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I think it's worth noting that "am" derives from "an dem", whereas no such root form exists for "um" (to my knowledge). –  0xC0000022L Jul 10 '13 at 1:17
2  
Toscho, @falkb, this post now needs further improvement. I agree that um can have the meaning of "about". But I was about rejecting this edit. As it stands now, it sounds like "um" means either "exactly" or "approximately". The logical question that must raise now: how can I determine what's meant. But in nearly all instances you can definitely tell what is meant, because the word "um" rarely (or never?) appears alone when "about" is meant but it's "um herum" (as in the example) or "so um". I think, Toscho, if you agree with the change you should add this to the answer, or rollback if not. –  Em1 Jul 10 '13 at 7:08
    
other prepositions with time of day are "Ab 19 uhr" "Bis 19 Uhr" "seit 19 Uhr" "von 19 bis 20 Uhr"... so almost all time prepositions there are... I think this should be added, since the answer makes it sound as if the versions given are the only ones –  Emanuel Jul 10 '13 at 10:53
    
@Toscho: thanks for improving my edit. Now it sounds better. –  falkb Jul 10 '13 at 11:39
    
I wonder if things like Ich fahre das Verkehrsschild um. must be considered in the answer as well... or even Die Kuh lief um den Teich. –  falkb Jul 10 '13 at 11:42

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