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Morgen vs. morgen in German Posted by on Jul 28, 2021 in Language

Guten Tag! Something that comes up frequently as a source of confusion for German learners is this: How come in the phrase Guten Morgen, the word Morgen (morning) is capitalised, but the word morgen (tomorrow) on its own is not? Let’s find out.

Simply put, the reason the Morgen in Guten Morgen is capitalised is because the word Morgen is a noun, and all German nouns are capitalised. The word morgen, however, is an adverb meaning tomorrow. Therefore, it is not capitalised.

Whilst this is pretty straight-forward, there are some grey areas to consider. So let’s look at each word in turn.

  • Guten Morgen – The greeting ‘good morning’. Sometimes shortened to just ‘Morgen!’
  • der Morgen – The morning.
  • morgen – The German word for ‘tomorrow’. An adverb, therefore written in lower-case unless at the start of a sentence.
  • das Morgen – A future date; ‘the tomorrow’. This is used when saying things like, ‘No one knows what tomorrow will bring’ or ‘Tomorrow is unwritten’ (‘Das Morgen ist ungeschrieben’).

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

Here’s an example of how you’d use the lower-case morgen, meaning tomorrow:

Wir gehen morgen spazieren – We’re going for a walk tomorrow.

Now, here’s where it can get confusing! Although the lower-case morgen means tomorrow, there is also the lower-case ‘morgens’, which means ‘morning’ when used to describe something that generally or frequently happens in the mornings, but isn’t talking about a specific morning. Here is an example:

Wir gehen morgens spazieren – We (usually) go for a walk in the mornings.

However, if you wanted to say you were going for a walk THIS morning, it would become capitalised, because you are talking about a SPECIFIC morning:

Wir gehen heute Morgen spazieren – We are going for a walk this morning.
(heute Morgen = this morning)

morgen

It is worth noting that Morgen is not the only word that gets this treatment; morgens, mittags, nachmittags, abends & nachts are all used when describing something that generally or frequently happens at those times, rather than on a specific day:

morgens – in the mornings (der Morgen: morning)
mittags – at midday (der Mittag: midday)
nachmittags – in the afternoons (der Nachmittag: afternoon)
abends – in the evenings (der Abend: evening)
nachts – at night (die Nacht: night)

The following sentence uses the lower-case, because it’s talking about something that frequently happens in the afternoons, but not on any specific day:

Ich gehe nachmittags 20 Minuten spazieren – I go for a 20-minute walk in the afternoons

This sentence, on the other hand, uses the noun der Nachmittag (the afternoon), because it’s talking about a specific afternoon:

Gestern Nachmittag ging ich 20 Minuten spazieren – I went for a 20-minute walk yesterday afternoon

Here is another example, this time using abends (evenings) and der Abend (the evening):

Ich putze abends meine Küche – I clean my kitchen in the evenings

Ich werde heute Abend meine Küche putzen – I will clean my kitchen this evening

morgen

Photo by Michael Niessl on Unsplash

I hope this post has been helpful!

If you liked this post, you might like this one: Points in time in German.

Bis bald (see you soon)
Constanze

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


Comments:

  1. Nancy:

    I just wanted to thank you for all the time and effort into your blogs/articles. They are very much appreciated. I just wanted to give you a pat on the back and a thank you!!

    Danke!

    • Constanze:

      @Nancy Danke, Nancy! Das freut mich 🙂

  2. Margaret:

    I enjoy reading explanations of words such as in this blog. I am a very slow learner so every explanation of grammar is helpful.

    • Constanze:

      @Margaret Glad to hear you find the blog useful, Margaret! Slow progress is better than no progress – keep going! 🙂

  3. Mark Bauer:

    These blogs are quick, interesting und Spaß. Thanks so much (Vielen Dank). Look forward to them.

  4. Nicola:

    How do you say tomorrow morning?

    • Constanze:

      @Nicola Morgen früh 🙂 That one is a little different!