I want to translate the following sentence:

She gives her mother a flower on mothers day

At first I wrote

Sie gibt ihrer Mutter eine Blume auf Muttertag.

But my German friend told me it should be

Sie gibt ihrer Mutter eine Blume zum Muttertag.

Is zum in this context equal to zu dem? And how do I know that I should use zum? What is the explanation, according to grammatic rules?

3 Answers 3


In general, there are three ways to express something happening on a certain (holi)day:

  • Use no preposition

    Weihnachten fahren wir in den Thüringer Wald.

  • Use an

    An Weihnachten fahren wir in den Thüringer Wald.

  • Use zu

    Zu Weihnachten fahren wir in den Thüringer Wald.

In case of mother’s day, the word Muttertag requires a contracted article for some reason, which makes the null preposition impossible. Note that that is not a general rule: Fronleichnam for example does not take one.

Sie schenkt ihr Blumen am Muttertag.

Sie schenkt ihr Blumen zum Muttertag.

An emphasises that the flower present happened on exactly that day, but it might just as well have been ‘Wednesday’ rather than ‘mother’s day. Zum emphasises that it was on the occasion of mother’s day.


Your second example is correct. However, it focuses on zum Muttertag, rather than on eine Blume. That's usually not what you want as it implies the day is important rather than the gift. So, usually you would say

Sie gibt ihrer Mutter zum Muttertag eine Blume.

You should nearly almost always use zum or zur, as zu dem and zu der sound stilted.

  • What would you say is the "dativ objekt" and "akkusativ objekt" in the above sentence?
    – Olba12
    Oct 17, 2016 at 21:36
  • 1
    The person who receives something is put into dative (whom?). The thing which is acted on is put into accusative (what?).
    – Janka
    Oct 17, 2016 at 21:37
  • The person receiving is the mother, the thing which is acted on is the flower, I would say. Assuming it's correct, why is it zum and not zur, since it's der Tag?
    – Olba12
    Oct 17, 2016 at 21:41
  • Yes. And second question, that's another function of the dative. Zum Muttertag is an adverbial of time (when?). You have to put that in dative if you want to denote a position in time (almost always). You can put it into genetive (seldom: accusative) if want want to denote a period of time instead. Das Telefon klingelt während der Fußballübertragung.
    – Janka
    Oct 17, 2016 at 21:47
  • The position in time is mothersday, second sunday in may (if my memory is correct) which I can consider to be at a specific time.
    – Olba12
    Oct 17, 2016 at 22:00

I would say: "Sie gibt Ihrer Mutter eine Blume zu Muttertag." This might not be grammatically correct German but it's the way it is said - at least in the Region where I live.

  • 3
    Which region is that? Do you have any references for your claim?
    – Matthias
    Oct 18, 2016 at 8:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.