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Difference between "Nun" and "Jetzt"

I'm confused on when to use which one, could someone please explain? Thanks!

March 8, 2018



The best explanation I have found - written by German Is Easy: So, jetzt is really purely a time expression. It is now as opposed to in 10 minutes for example.

Ich hab’ jetzt keine Zeit…. vielleicht später. I don’t have time right now… maybe later. Here, we can not use nun instead. So we could maybe say, that jetzt means right now. Nun is different in that it focuses more in the current situation. We can think of it as some kind of “as things are now” One simple example is this. You and a friend go for a walk. You get back home and you realize that you don’t have a key with you.

Was machen wir jetzt /nun. What do we do now (that the situation is as it is). Here, jetzt and nun are interchangeable because the focus is not so much on time but on the situation. But that doesn’t mean that jetzt wouldn’t work. Nun in sense of now is actually not used that much. But there are other situations where you can see nun because it is somewhat of a coloring word or particle. For one, it is often used in combination with mal.

“Der Film war ok, aber ich mag Leonardo Di Caprio nun mal nicht. (subtext: I didn’t enjoy the movie too much) The movie was alright, I just don’t really like Leo. Here, nun mal is kind of a reasoning. And on a rather abstract level this is not so different to the first nun… “as things are” or thing is. And then finally, nun is often used to introduce sentences. Dictionaries often translate this one as “well”.

Nun, zuerst muss ich meine Wohnung aufräumen, dann muss ich …. Well, first I have to clean my flat, then I have to …. And again, if we think of it on an abstract level, it is kind of the same nun…

Thing is, first I have to clean my flat, then I have to…. I hope that makes sense :). So bottom line, “nun” in sense of now refers to the current situation and is not used that much, while “jetzt” really means now as in “at this current point in time”.


Wow! This is really helpful, thank you so much!


Briefly put, "Jetzt" always means "now/at this time. As an example of "nun"' one might say "Nun, ich wurde nicht so machen" ("Well or now, I wouldn't do so".


Really there's not much of a difference. But if you must make a difference: jetzt means "right now, this instant" where the meaning of nun is closer to "presently" or "by now". It's somewhat broader and can be used as a filler as well

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