What is the difference between the words zuerst and erste in meaning?

Can it be used interchangeably?

3 Answers 3


"Zuerst" is used as "doing something first, before something else". It can be shortened to "erst". "Erste", however, means "the first" and it can only be used if a woman is first. Therefore, these two are not interchangeable as the meaning is completely different.

  • 1
    How about Der Erste and Das Erste (First german television channel)? Does the gender really matter? Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 16:01
  • Und was ist mit "Erste Erfahrungen sammelte ..." Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 16:43

Zuerst is an adverb
Erst(-e/-es/-er/-en/-em) is a count word or maybe an adjective


For Example:

Zuerst gehe ich Milch einkaufen. --> First, I go to buy milk.

If you want to count something you have to use erste.

Das Erste, das Zweite, das Dritte.... -> The first, the second, the third.... Das erste Haus -> the first house

So erste is used as adjective.

You can exchange zuerst with als erstes to keep the same meaning in the first example.

  • 1
    "Das Erste" sieht aber ein wenig wie ein Substantiv aus. Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 16:44
  • I am wondering about the sentence: "Erst die Arbeit, dann das Spiel". (My dad always said this to me :) ) Why is it not "Zuerst"? Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 15:50

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