Do years before Christ (or zero) follow the same reading pattern as here? How do we say and write B. C. in German? Do they have other forms of expressing that (e. g. non-religious ones)? What about other calendars (Jewish, Eastern Orthodox)?

  • 2
    There is no such thing as a year zero ;) Jan 24, 2023 at 20:32
  • 1
    My understanding is that BC and AD are increasingly being replaced by BCE and CE, standing for "before common era" and "common era". That way non-Christians can talk about dates without bringing religion into it. I assume v.u.Z. and (n.)u.Z. (see Henning Kockerbeck's answer) perform a similar function for German speakers.
    – RDBury
    Jan 26, 2023 at 1:16

2 Answers 2


There is no year zero. (This is independent from the language)

Das Jahr vor dem Jahr 2 nach Christus ist das Jahr 1 nach Christus.
Das Jahr vor dem Jahr 1 nach Christus ist das Jahr 1 vor Christus.

With the usual abbreviations:

Das Jahr vor dem Jahr 2 n. Chr. ist das Jahr 1 n. Chr.
Das Jahr vor dem Jahr 1 n. Chr. ist das Jahr 1 v. Chr.

In English:

The year before the year 2 AD is the year 1 AD.
The year before the year 1 AD is the year 1 BC.

But note that in astronomical calendars there is a year zero, but there are also negative years:

The year 2 AD is the astronomical year 2.
The year 1 AD is the astronomical year 1.
The year 1 BC is the astronomical year 0.
The year 2 BC is the astronomical year -1.
The year 3 BC is the astronomical year -2.

The German terms vor Christus and nach Christus and their abbreviations have of course a religious connotation, but since it is the most usual form, this connotation is weaker than it might sound to learners of German. I am an atheist but I still use these expressions because they are so common and I don't have a problem with it, like almost every second German native speaker who is non-religious or member of a non-christian religion.1

There are also other terms and abbreviations, but they are so rare, that most people don't know what the abbreviations stand for:

  • vuZ = v.u.Z. = vor unserer Zeit = vor unserer Zeitrechnung
  • nuZ = n.u.Z. = nach unserer Zeit = nach unserer Zeitrechnung

For the numbers themselves:
Everything that was explained in the answer you linked to in your question, is true also for dates before Christ. You just have to add »v.Chr.« The rest is the same.

For dates in other calendars:
I think you do it in German the same way as in English (how ever this might be - I don't know).

1 About 52% of people living in Germany are Christs source, in Austria it's about 68% source and in Switzerland about 61% source.

  • So 1350 B. C. is not red "dreizehnhundertfuenfzig v. Chr.", but "tausenddreihundertfuenfzig v. Chr."?
    – Juandev
    Jan 25, 2023 at 8:44
  • @Juandev: Wrong! I wrote: "Everything that was explained in the answer you linked to in your question, is true also for dates before Christ. You just have to add »v.Chr.« The rest is the same." In this other answer you can read for example: "1315 dreizehnhundertfünfzehn". As a conclusion 1350 BC is in German "dreizehnhundertfünfzig vor Christus", and this is what you should learn. The other possibility ("tausenddreihundertfuenfzig v. Chr.") is not completely wrong but very unusual, so you should avoid it. Jan 25, 2023 at 9:34

Generally, the years B. C. are read in the same way as are the years A. D. For example

Romulus und Remus waren nach der römischen Mythologie die Gründer der Stadt Rom im Jahre 753 v. Chr.

what would be read as "(...) im Jahre Siebenhundertdreiundfünfzig vor Christus".

The equivalent for "A. D." would unsurprisingly be "nach Christus" or "n. Chr.", though this is very often ommitted. We rarely speak of "das Jahr 2023 n. Chr.", unless there's a specific reason for that ;)

Additionally, there's a way that tries to avoid religious connotations, and that's referring to "our way of calculating times", "unsere Zeitrechnung". You can compare this to "before or after the Common Era". With this, the legendary foundation of Rome would have been at

753 vor unserer Zeitrechnung (v. u. Z.)

For "A. D." we might say

das Jahr 2023 unserer Zeitrechnung (u. Z.)


das Jahr 2023 nach unserer Zeitrechnung (n. u. Z.)

You may want to note that "nach" in this case doesn't refer to "after" congruent to "before" in "v. u. Z.", but more to "according to". "Nach unserer Zeitrechnung" would be something like "according to our way of calculating times".

As an aside, in our calendar there was no year 0. After the year -1, so to speak, the next year was the year 1. That's seen from today's perspective, of course, the people of the time used different calender(s). You occasionally find people using a year 0 in their calculations, which means they determine the date for the coming apocalypse one year wrong ;)

  • Of course it makes sense to speak about the years "nach Christus" if there is possibility of confusion, i.e. "Im Jahre 10 v. Chr. .... wohingegegen im Jahr 10 n. Chr..." Jan 24, 2023 at 9:43
  • @infinitezero Sure, but in my experience this peters out relatively quickly. I don't remember, for example, reading about "das Jahr 800 n. Chr." that often ;) We did have about two millenia since the beginning of "unserer Zeitrechnung", and the part of those that "n. Chr." is used with commonly is quite small IMHO. Jan 24, 2023 at 10:17
  • 1
    FWIW, "after" can be used in English to mean "following, according to" in a similar way to how "nach" can be used in German. Overlaps like this bring me joy for some reason. 😄 Jan 24, 2023 at 19:43
  • 1
    It is perhaps worth mentioning that „v. u. Z.“ is not politically neutral, because it was popularized (if not invented) by the communist dictatorship in East Germany, although I suppose many people, especially East Germans, will use it without intending to convey a political stance. By the way, „v. Chr.“ is also sometimes spoken as „vor Christi Geburt“. Jan 24, 2023 at 22:52
  • 1
    @SebastianKoppehel Are you saying that referring to Christ instead is politically neutral? Unless the context makes the distinction between v. u. Z. and v. Chr. meaningful I don't think anyone would care or even notice.
    – quarague
    Jan 25, 2023 at 9:01

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.