How to Correctly Use “ago” in German

This interesting concept exists both in English and in German but it is applied differently. This often leads to confusion among German learners.

The German translation of ago is “vor”. The difference is that in English, ago is placed after the time indication and in German, “vor” is placed before the time indication. Let’s have a look at an example:

A year ago. If you translate word for word you get: Ein Jahr vor. But that is wrong. The correct way of saying it is: Vor einem Jahr.

You might have noticed that “vor” requires the dative case, because it’s not Vor ein Jahr but Vor einem Jahr. In the dative case, ein becomes einem and eine becomes einer. Here is another example:

The last game was a month ago. The word-for-word translation is Das letzte Spiel war ein Monat vor. But now you already know that this is wrong. You have to put the “vor” before “ein Monat” and apply the dative case. So the correct translation is: Das letzte Spiel war vor einem Monat. Let’s check out some more examples, and all of these are correct:

Ich habe vor einer Woche ein Auto gekauft. I bought a car a week ago. This is an example with a feminine noun (eine Woche – a week) and you see that eine Woche became einer Woche.

Du warst vor einem Jahr in London. (You were in London a year ago.)

Wir sind vor zwei Stunden im Hotel angekommen. (We arrived at the hotel 2 hours ago.)

So that was a short explanation about the different usage of ago in German and in English. In English it goes after the time indication (a year ago), and in German it goes before the time indication (vor einem Jahr).

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