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Das Büro ist abends nur am Donnerstag offen.

This is in response to someone who wants to make an appointment but only has time in the evening. The opening hours for the office are - von 9 bis 12 Uhr jeden Tag und am Donnerstag auch am Abend.

Does my sentence mean what it should? I'm worried it might instead mean that the office is only open on Thursday evenings and no other time, which is not true.

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    Yes and no - while it is uncommon, it logically says: regarding all evenings, it is only open on thursday. Nothing mentioned about mornings - which would be considered in a same way structured sentence. – Shegit Brahm Aug 27 '20 at 10:03
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    @user392289 Emphasize Abends by putting it to the beginning of the sentence, makes it more clear, yes. – πάντα ῥεῖ Aug 27 '20 at 10:16
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    The word order is off. You also should use plural to indicate that you are not referring to a specific (the next) Thursday: "Das Büro ist nur an Donnerstagen abends offen." – Roland Aug 27 '20 at 10:27
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    @Roland - Why "an Donnerstagen" and not donnerstags? – user392289 Aug 27 '20 at 11:01
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    I'm having a hard time crafting an unambiguous version in English. But it looks like the best solution in both languages is to move "evenings" to the front to make it clear that the rest of the sentence applies only then: "In the evenings, the office is only open on Thursdays." -- Abends ist das Büro nur donnerstags geöffnet. My understanding is that for hours of operation of stores, offices, etc. it's more common to use geöffnet instead of offen, – RDBury Aug 27 '20 at 11:04
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Does my sentence express this clearly? I'm worried it might instead mean that the office is only open on Thursday evenings and no other time, which is not true.

Yes, your worries are justified. As expressed it is a bit unclear. Also Abends doesn't give the reader a clear timespan.

Id rather use a literal translation, e.g.:

Die Öffnungszeiten des Büros sind
Mo - Fr (Sa?) 9 - 12 Uhr
Do 9 - 12 und 17 -19 Uhr


In response to the edit of the question:

This is in response to someone who wants to make an appointment but only has time in the evening. The opening hours for the office are - von 9 bis 12 Uhr jeden Tag und am Donnerstag auch am Abend.

It would be clearer for the apprentice if you tell them:

Die regulären Öffnungszeiten für das Büro sind jeden Tag von 9 bis 12 Uhr und nur am Donnerstag auch Abends (von 17 -19 Uhr).

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  • This sentence is in response to someone who wants an appointment but can only make it in the evening. So would it be understood in this context? – user392289 Aug 27 '20 at 10:09
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    @user392289 In that particular context and spoken directly yes. You probably should make that a bit clearer in your question. Also my critique regarding Abends as being unclear still stands. – πάντα ῥεῖ Aug 27 '20 at 10:14
  • Vielen Dank! Will add that to the question. – user392289 Aug 27 '20 at 10:21
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Scope

Your sentence is entirely correct because of something called scope (Skopus, although that article is both a bit technical and not a good introduction to the concept). The idea is that nur can only restrict what occurs after it. Because abends appears to the left of nur, the interpretation only in the evening is excluded.

A simple example of scope in action:

Ich esse nur sonntags Brot.
Sunday is the only day I eat bread.

Ich esse sonntags nur Brot.
Bread is the only food I eat on Sunday.

The same kind of paraphrase for the original sentence:

Das Büro ist abends nur am Donnerstag offen.
Thursday is the only day that the office is open in the evening.

As the sentence is written, the phrase nur am Donnerstag restricts the proposition das Büro ist abends offen. This is exactly what was intended.

Word order

The sentence

Das Büro ist abends (time of day) nur am Donnerstag (day of the week) offen.

has a marked (non-neutral) word order. German word order is highly complex and determined by the interplay of various factors. This often makes it hard to understand why a certain word order is perceived as marked. However, in this case, the problem is quite clear: It is because the specific (time of day) precedes the general (day of the week).

However, the unmarked order

Das Büro ist nur am Donnerstag abends geöffnet.

is quite close to the wholly different

Das Büro ist nur am Donnerstagabend geöffnet.
Thursday evening is the only time that the office is open.

which has only one adverbial of time combining day and time of day. I assume that is the reason why people have suggested moving one adverbial into first position in order to improve the sentence.

Nur am Donnerstag ist das Büro abends geöffnet. (unmarked)
Abends ist das Büro nur am Donnerstag geöffnet. (marked)

Creative solutions

I interpreted the question to be more about word order and scope regularities than about how to potentially improve the sentence. If the latter was the main intent, I see no reason not to get more creative – in my opinion, it is better to write around certain problems than to craft a sentence that has a technically correct meaning, but will take people more time to process because of subtleties (e.g. of word order and scope).

Wenn Sie abends kommen möchten, ist das nur am Donnerstag möglich.

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  • The word order is not correct. "abends" should be directly before "offen". Everything else would change the meaning slightly. – Roland Aug 27 '20 at 11:14
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    @Roland it may not be unmarked (neutral), but I see nothing incorrect about it. You'll have to explain. – David Vogt Aug 27 '20 at 11:29
  • It strongly depends on where you break and how you emphasize the words. "abends offen sein" is the phrase we want here. Of course, you can "inject" other qualifiers here in German, but that can create ambiguity. – Roland Aug 27 '20 at 11:32
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    @Roland In your opinion, what are the two (or more?) meanings of das Büro ist abends nur am Donnerstag offen? – David Vogt Aug 27 '20 at 11:40
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    @Roland - Could you refer me to a resource which talks about this rule? I would love to learn more about this. :) I have a lot of trouble with word order. – user392289 Aug 27 '20 at 11:56
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Ich schlage

Nur am Donnerstag ist das Büro auch abends geöffnet

vor.

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