How Is the Word "gerade" Used in German? - German Takeaways

How Is the Word “gerade” Used in German?

Gerade is a German adverb often used in everyday talk. It is also an adjective, but in this case it only means “straight (not curved)” (eine gerade Straße = a straight road).

1. With Present Tense or Simple Past (Präteritum)

When we combine this word with a verb in present tense or in Präteritum (i.e. Ich singe/sang + gerade), it expresses that the action “is/was taking place” at the moment of speech.

In English and Spanish, they use the verb “to be” (in Spanish: estar) with the gerund form of the verb for this purpose (I am singing, Spanish: estoy cantando). In German there is no such verb structure comparable to English or Spanish with this exact meaning.

Examples:

  • Ich kann gerade nicht, weil ich beim Arzt bin. ([At this moment] I can’t because I’m at the doctor’s office.)
  • Ich kann nicht raus, denn es regnet gerade. (I can’t go out because it’s raining.)
  • Sie las gerade die Zeitung, all es an der Tür klingelte. (She was reading the newspaper when the doorbell rang.)
  • Er kommt gerade nach Hause. (He’s [just] coming home.)
  • Sie kam gerade an, als ich loswollte. (She just arrived when I was about to leave.)

2. With Present Perfect (Perfekt)

However, when used with a verb in Perfekt, its meaning is very different. It expresses that something “has just happened”, i.e. short/directly before the moment of speech.

In this sense, it correspondes to the English adverb “just (a moment ago)”.

Examples:

  • Wir sind gerade aus dem Kino gekommen. (We’ve just come back from cinema.)
  • Sie sind gerade weggefahren. (They just drove away.)
  • Ich habe gerade nicht zugehört. (I wasn’t listening.)

4. Different forms of this adverb

In everyday talk, we drop either the first e (grade) or both e’s (grad). Both spellings are registered in the official dictionary DUDEN:

  • Kommst du grad(e) mal? (Could you come for a second?)
  • Tut mir leid, ich kann grad(e) nicht. (I’m sorry but I can’t [at this moment.])