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The Good Old Days

When we describe events in the past, we often use temporal adverbs to give a more specific sense of what exact time period we are talking about. Are we talking about events of yesterday or something that happened thirty years ago? In the German language, both the present perfect and the preterite tenses indicate a finished action or state, but more information is often required for clarity's sake.

 

Generally, when we see in der Vergangenheit ("in the past") we know that it is not a matter of something that occurred in the recent past, but rather a long time ago.

 

Aus meiner Sicht: Ich fühle mich nicht schuldig für das, was in der Vergangenheit geschehen ist.
From my point of view, I don't feel guilty for that which happened in the past.
Caption 10, Konstantin: ein Freiwilliger in Israel

 

We can also use damals and früher to indicate that something happened in the past. Both of these temporal adverbs indicate an action or state that has been concluded for a while. They can be translated as "back then" or "previously." 

 

Früher haben hier die amerikanischen Soldaten gewohnt.
Previously, American soldiers lived here.
Caption 6, Berlin: der alte amerikanische Sektor

 

Damals schwor ich mir, dass mir das nicht wieder passieren sollte.
Back then, I swore that something like that wouldn't happen to me again.
Caption 49, TEDx: Der Supermarkt der Zukunft

 

Internet? Was ist das? Das kannten wir damals gar nicht.
Internet? What is that? We didn't know that at all back then.
Caption 35, Mittelalterlicher Markt: Mäuseroulette

 

Sometimes, we want to emphasize that a state was constant or an action was repeated multiple times in the past. For this, we often use the phrase "used to" in English. Below, you can see how the word früher can function in a similar way in various contexts:

 

Weißt du noch, wie's früher war?
Do you still remember how it used to be?
Caption 8, Christina Stürmer: Wir leben den Moment

 

Und du tanzt nicht mehr wie früher.
And you don't dance like you used to anymore.
Caption 4, AnnenMayKantereit: 21, 22, 23

 

Ich ging früher im Urlaub immer reiten.
I used to always go horseback riding during vacation.
Caption 16, Konjugation: Das Verb „gehen“

 

Further Learning
You can search for more examples with früher and damals on Yabla German or take a look at this website for a more extensive list of different types of adverbs. 

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