2

In formal English, the general rule is to avoid word contractions, for example, "I am visiting on Thursday" is formal, whereas in informal English, one could say "I'm visiting on Thursday".

My question is: Is there any equivalent to this in German? In a formal letter would I write "ich bin in dem Büro", but in an informal email I would write "ich bin im Büro". Or "in dem Herbst"?

Below is a table of German contractions, and I have marked the ones that I suspect are only to be used in informal German:

an + dem = am

an + das = ans

auf + das = aufs

außer + dem = außerm <- Not in dict.cc or Langenscheidt or DWDS

bei + dem = beim

durch + das = durchs

für + das = fürs

hinter + das = hinters <- INFORMAL

hinter + den = hintern <- INFORMAL + Not in dict.cc or Langenscheidt

hinter + dem = hinterm <- INFORMAL + Not in Langenscheidt

in + das = ins

in + dem = im

neben + das = nebens <- INFORMAL + Not in dict.cc or Langenscheidt or DWDS

über + das = übers <- INFORMAL + Not in Langenscheidt

über + den = übern <- INFORMAL + Not in Langenscheidt

über + dem = überm <- INFORMAL + Not in Langenscheidt

um + das = ums

unter + das = unters <- INFORMAL + Not in Langenscheidt

unter + den = untern <- INFORMAL + Not in Langenscheidt + Low usage

unter + dem = unterm <- INFORMAL + Not in Langenscheidt

vor + das = vors <- INFORMAL + Not in Langenscheidt

vor + dem = vorm <- INFORMAL

vor + den = vorn <- INFORMAL + Not in DWDS

von + dem = vom

zu + dem = zum

zu + der = zur

Unofficial contractions

geht + es = geht's <- INFORMAL

sie + es = sie's <- INFORMAL

5
  • 2
    The ones that use an apostrophe aren't really official contractions, just a way of spelling what people actually say instead of the correct spelling, a bit like "yer" and "wanna" in English. So no, don't use them in a formal letter.
    – RDBury
    Aug 17 at 11:59
  • 2
    There is a difference between polite and formal -- maybe change that wording. Aufm Berg is not impolite, but informal. Aug 17 at 12:28
  • 2
    @phipsgabler: Yes, the issue is more complex than a binary polite vs. informal. I'm getting the impression that some of these words are dated or restricted to poetry. There are inappropriate levels of politeness too, for example I don't think you'd use Ihr instead of Sie in a business letter.
    – RDBury
    Aug 17 at 14:46
  • Is "I am visiting on Thursday" really just formal in english? I don't think so. It is more explicit than "I'm visiting", because it emphasizes that I am (really) going to visit.
    – PMF
    Aug 18 at 17:45
  • 1
    Nobody would write "Ich bin in dem Büro" say in a business e-mail, unless they wanted to specify that office. "Ich bin noch bis Freitag im Büro und danach im Urlaub." is a totally fine way to write a formal letter (although you would probably rather phrase it "Ich befinde mich...")
    – YetiCGN
    Aug 19 at 10:06
1

Yes, avoid contractions in formal letters also in German. Except "am", "im", "vom", "ins" which are OK here (because that's neutral), and splitting them into "*n + dem" is just an additional level of formality.

1
  • 1
    Or even a level of anachronism. Might even be perceived as snobby.
    – YetiCGN
    Aug 19 at 10:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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