How to use "zurzeit and Zur Zeit, gerade and jetzt" in conversation?

Zur Zeit der Germanen
Zur Zeit der Germanen

What is the difference between "zurzeit and Zur Zeit, gerade and jetzt"? In English these all mean currently. But is there a difference in German?

Zurzeit, for example, denotes a current state, similar to momentan, im Moment, gerade, jetzt ...One difference between these however is the period of time, this state continues. For instance compare these two sentences:
Ich lege gerade einen Garten an.  
Ich lege zurzeit einen Garten an. 

While in the second case, you are talking about a project which may take some days or weeks and you're not necessarily working on it right now. The second point is, that such a state may change sooner or later. How it is understood usually depends on what you're talking about.

Zurzeit schreibt sie selten E-Mails. / Currently she rarely writes e-mails.
Maybe because, she currently has little time or whatsoever, but that state won't continue forever.

"gerade" corresponds to 'just', referring to the close ("non-distant") past, or to an ongoing action.

gerade --> corresponds with "just, only just, just now"
Er telefoniert gerade. / He's on the phone.
Er war gerade dabei zu telefonieren. / He was just about to phone.
Er war gerade erst zurückgekommen, als es passierte. / He had only just come back when it happened.

So what is the difference to "derzeit"?

Derzeit and zurzeit are in fact synonyms. However, "derzeit" is more formal and used in business writing.

Which sentence would you consider more formal which sentence informal?
Derzeit haben wir leider keine Stellen zur Verfügung. / Unfortunately, there are currently no vacancies available.
Zurzeit haben wir keine Stellen frei. / There are currently no vacancies.


But shouldn't "zurzeit" be written "zur Zeit"?

They are not the same. "Zur Zeit + genitive case" is used to express an action that happened at a certain time in the past.

Have a look at these examples:

Zur Zeit der Germanen gab es Getreidebrei zu essen. / At the time of the Teutons they had grain porridge to eat.
Zu dieser Zeit gab es nicht viel Fleisch. There wasn't much meat at that time.

jetzt oder nie - now or never

"jetzt" on it's own is pretty straight forward and is often combined with other particles.

jetzt / now
jetzt schon now already
jetzt erst only now
  • Jetzt ist Sylvester vorbei. / Now New Year's Eve is over.
  • Es ist jetzt schon drei Tage vorbei. / It's been three days already.
  • Jetzt erst schneit es. / It's only snowing now.

Danke fürs lesen und ich wünsche euch allen noch eine ruhige und erholsame Weihnachtszeit und Prosit Neujahr 2018!

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