Morgen vs. morgen in German Posted by Constanze 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’).
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)
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
I hope this post has been helpful!
Bis bald (see you soon)
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