Seit vs. SeitdemWhat's the Difference?

Diving into German can uncover subtle yet important distinctions between words. 'Seit' and 'seitdem' both point to time, but their use can change the meaning of a sentence. Learn how to use them correctly in just a few minutes.

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08.02.2024

When learning German, understanding small differences between words can be a big help in speaking and writing more naturally. Today, we're looking at two words that often confuse beginners: seit and seitdem. Both relate to time, but they are used in slightly different ways.

What Does seit Mean?

Seit is a preposition that means "since" or "for" in English. It is used to talk about a period of time that started in the past and continues into the present. For example, if you've been learning German for two years, you would say "Ich lerne seit zwei Jahren Deutsch." This means "I have been learning German for two years."

What Does seitdem Mean?

Seitdem is a conjunction or an adverb, and it also means "since" in English. It is used to connect two clauses and talk about something that started happening at a certain point in the past and is still happening now. For example, "Ich habe ihn nicht gesehen, seitdem er nach Berlin gezogen ist." This means "I haven't seen him since he moved to Berlin."

Key Differences

The main difference between seit and seitdem lies in their grammatical roles and usage in sentences. Seit is used as a preposition with a time expression, whereas seitdem is used to introduce a clause, often referring back to a specific event mentioned in a previous sentence or clause.

Usage in Sentences

To help clarify, let's look at some examples:

  • Seit:

    • "Ich wohne seit 2010 in Deutschland." (I have been living in Germany since 2010.)
    • "Sie arbeitet hier seit letztem Monat." (She has been working here since last month.)
  • Seitdem:

    • "Er hat mit dem Rauchen aufgehört, seitdem er Vater geworden ist." (He has quit smoking since he became a father.)
    • "Seitdem ich in Berlin wohne, habe ich viele Freunde gefunden." (Since I have been living in Berlin, I have made many friends.)

Conclusion

While seit and seitdem both relate to time and can sometimes be used to convey a similar meaning, they serve different functions in a sentence. Remembering that seit is a preposition used with time expressions and seitdem is a conjunction or adverb used to link clauses can help you decide which to use. With a bit of practice, you'll find it becomes easier to choose the right word for your sentences.

Understanding these small differences can make a big difference in how naturally your German sounds, so keep practicing!

Ich lerne seit 2015 Deutsch.

I have been learning German since 2015.
Sie wohnt seit ihrer Kindheit in München.

She has lived in Munich since she was a child.
Wir sind seit unserer Schulzeit Freunde.

We have been friends since our school days.
Seitdem er nach Berlin gezogen ist, hat er viel über die deutsche Kultur gelernt.

Since he moved to Berlin, he has learned a lot about German culture.
Seitdem ich meinen neuen Job angefangen habe, habe ich viele interessante Leute kennengelernt.

Since I started my new job, I've met many interesting people.
Seitdem er zur Universität gegangen ist, hat er sich sehr verändert.

He has changed a lot since he went to college.

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