I am sure that the expression "zu Mittag" is the one to be used when talking about lunch. For example:

zu Mittag gehen wir ins Restaurant.

So far, so good. My 2 questions are:

  1. Is zu Mittag limited only to the context of eating, or can it be applied to all other areas? In other words, can I use it as a Temporale Angabe for anything? Or for all other areas that do not include nutrition at around noon do I use "am Mittag"?

  2. Why zu Mittag and not zum Mittag?


1 Answer 1

  1. Yes, at least in Standard German it is limited to lunch and dinner. For dinner, the analogous expression is "zu Abend essen". But you wouldn't say "*zu Frühstück essen".
    Also I found this DaF forum, which points out that you wouldn't say "*zu Mittag kochen" (prepare lunch), but you can say "ich koche zu Mittag Suppe".
    For other contexts, "am Mittag" is okay. The preferred way however is "mittags" or "jeden (Montag, Dienstag, …) Mittag" for regular activities around noon, and a specific "heute Mittag", "morgen Mittag", "gestern Mittag" for any of these 3 days.

  2. According to general rules, it would logically be zum. However, it's one of the various cases of a Nullartikel. I don't think it's very logical but just idiomatic.

Similarly, you can ask:

Was wollen wir zu Ostern essen?

Schenken wir uns zu Weihnachten etwas?


Zur Pensionierung backe ich dir einen Kuchen.

Zum Geburtstag viel Glück.

On an interesting albeit confusing side note: Acc. to wiktionary, "zu Mittag essen" is Austrian. My personal experience tells me that people in West Germany, e.g. Cologne, also say "zu Mittag essen". In contrast, Duden states that it is the alternative "mittagessen" that is Austrian.

  • Thank you for your answers! You did answer question 1. Still, question 2 is a mystery for me. In my opinion, it should be zu+dem=>zum. Thank you again
    – LT_ichinen
    Dec 29, 2019 at 14:43
  • 2
    Note that you can say "Ich hatte ein Steak zu Mittag", but in the morning it's "Ich hatte ein Steak zum Frühstück", which is kind of a mindfuck ^^
    – user31220
    Jan 1, 2020 at 6:48
  • @LT_ichinen According to general rules, you're right. It would logically be zum. I did some research and I believe it's one of the various cases of a Nullartikel. I edited my answer accordingly.
    – Cacambo
    Jan 2, 2020 at 9:02

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