During the German class, we studied that the verb fernsehen (to watch TV) should be conjugated as ich sehe fern, du siehst fern, etc.

I want to translate the sentence I watch TV on evenings to German.

I have two options:

The first one looks fine but uses an alternative verb. The last one seems to be strange since the verb fernsehen should be splitted into sehe and fern, as mentioned at the beginning of the question.

My question is, how to correctly translate this sentence in the way the native German speaker would say it? What is the right word order:

Ich sehe fern abends
Ich sehe abends fern

or something else?

  • @CarstenSchultz The bad thing about the reworded question after answers had already been given that addressed the badness of the machine translations is that significant parts of the answers are now irrelevant. See the meta discussion
    – Jan
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 10:00
  • @Jan, yes I noticed. I'm pretty sure that my comment was “could have”, not “should”.
    – Carsten S
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


The Yandex version is badly wrong. It replaced the verb fernsehen with the noun Fernsehen, either meaning the process of watching TV or the TV itself. Google probably chose the structure it did because it doesn’t translate idiomatically but rather literally, and that option is more literal (but less idiomatic).

The verb fernsehen, as you noticed, is separable. Therefore, both fragments form a Verbklammer which should extend over the entire rest of the sentence. Thus, the only idiomatically correct version of the suggestions you made would be:

Ich sehe abends fern.

For other ways of putting it (in a nutshell: Nobody would say that in Bavaria), there are questions concerning the different idioms somewhere on here.

And of course, not to forget, you can freely switch word order within the correct sentence, so the following are possible, too:

Abends sehe ich fern.
Fern sehe ich abends.

(There is one more permutation, but that sounds so wrong to my ears that I’m going to leave it out.)


Both translations are sentences, that no native speaker would use.

Ich gucke TV abends.

First thing to note is, that the verb »gucken« is not used in the complete German spoken Area. It is unusual in Austria, and - as I guess - also in Bavaria, but since I live in Austria I can't say much about the usage in different areas or Germany or Switzerland.

But even if you replace »gucken« by »sehen« (which is used by every German native Speaker) you get an unusual word order:

Ich sehe TV abends.

This is not really wrong, but bad style and very unusual. Better is this:

Ich sehe abends TV.

But even this can be improved, because I know nobody who says »Ich sehe TV«. People say »Ich sehe fern«:

Ich sehe abends fern.

While the google-version was unusual and therefor bad, but not absolutely wrong, the version from Yandex is definitely wrong.

Ich Fernsehen am Abend.

Verbs that are not the first word of a sentence must be written in all lowercase characters:

Ich fernsehen am Abend.

But here the verb stands in its infinitive form. It belongs to the subject (»ich«) and must therefore be declined so that is matches to 1st person singular:

Ich fernsehe am Abend.

So now we have two correct sentences(»Ich sehe abends fern.« and »Ich fernsehe am Abend.«), but they still differ in two items:

abends = am Abend

The word »abends« is a synonym of the phrase »am Abend«. Same is true for:

morgens = am Morgen
mittags = zu Mittag (be aware of »zu« instead of »am«)
donnerstags = am Donnerstag

There is a small difference: »Abends« tends to mean »every evening«, while »am Abend« tends more to be interpreted as »on one evening«. But this trend is weak and in most cases the context determines much stronger how this should be interpreted.

The second difference is this:

Ich sehe fern = Ich fernsehe

The verb fernsehen is a separable verb, so the version »Ich sehe fern« is correct without any doubt, but this doesn't mean that the other version is wrong. Many people use the second version, and also lots of people think it is wrong. This is one of the examples where one group says:

Rules describe how people use the language, and since there are many people who say »Ich fernsehe abends« the official rules that claim that this is wrong are outdated and must be replaced by new rules that allow this version.

The other group says:

Rules help you to learn a language. Follow the rules and your German will be correct. And since the official rules say that you have to split fernsehen, only the version »Ich sehe abends fern« is correct.

If you are a native speaker, you can decide which group you vote for. But if you are learning German as a foreign language, you better don't try to change the rules. You better follow the rules, because this keeps you on the safe side. So you better say one of this sentences:

Ich sehe abends fern.
Ich sehe am Abend fern.

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