German word of the day: Wehtun

Today’s word of the day is one of the many German words that combine an adjective with the verb "do."

German word of the day: Wehtun
Photo: depositphotos

And if that sounds too vague, let me explain. While wehtun means “to hurt”, it literally translates to “sore-do,” as in “something or someone is making me feel sore”.

You can use wehtun in many variations, because the words weh and tun can be separated and spread throughout a sentence.

For example, if someone is hurting you, you say “Du tust mir weh.” (“You’re hurting me.”) That means the person who is hurting you is making you feel sore, whether it's used literally for physical pain or figuratively for emotional pain.

That notion can also be used when you are in pain and go to the doctor’s office. There you might describe the place of pain by saying “Mein Kopf/Rücken/Bauch tut mir weh” (“My head/back/tummy hurts.”)

The past tense of the word is wehgetan and – if you have kids – is probably a word you have stumbled across on the playground. It usually doesn’t take long until a child (which just fell off something, probably) runs towards its parents, crying: “Ich habe mir wehgetan” (“I hurt myself.”)

And because I was talking about other words that combine an adjective and the verb “to do” in the beginning of this article, here are some short examples: abtun (to dismiss), wegtun (To put/throw away), auftun (to find/to open up/to put food on a plate).

Wehtun is a word quite common in the German language, as you can see.


Mein Kopf tut mir weh.

My head hurts.

Hör auf damit, du tust ihm weh!

Stop it; you are hurting him!

Sie hat mir wehgetan.

She hurt me.


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German word of the day: Lüften

One of the first lessons you learn when living in Germany is that airing out rooms is extremely important.

German word of the day: Lüften

Whether you sublet, rent a flat or own your home in Germany, it’s likely you’ve been told how important it is to lüften, or open your windows and let air in and out regularly. 

Lüften can be a verb or noun in Germany. As a noun it uses the ‘das’ article and stands for ventilation. The verb lüften means to air out something. It comes from the German word die Luft which means air.

The proper airing out of rooms is a very German thing. Hell, it’s a way of life. 

Just check your rent contract. Foreigners in Germany are often surprised to find that ventilating their homes is usually written into their contract and accompanied by instructions. That means it’s literally legally binding! 

There are very important rules to remember, and German even has a set of vocabulary dedicated to getting fresh air safely in and out the room. 

Words like Stoßlüften – which translates to shock or impact ventilation. This is needed at least twice a day (and more in summer) and involves opening the windows or balcony doors wide to let a ‘shock’ of cold air in. According to experts, you should do this for about five minutes a time in winter, 10-15 minutes each time in autumn and spring, and up to half an hour in summer.

Meanwhile, Querlüften or cross ventilation involves opening all the windows of a house or building and letting the fresh air flow through.

The aim of all this lüften is to stop mould from forming, get rid of smells and to stop rooms from getting too humid. The more people that live in your home, the more airing out you’ll have to do. 

Germans recommend that you turn off your heating while airing out your room (to save on money and to protect the climate) – so be sure to have a big jumper on if you’re airing out in winter. 

READ ALSO: Why Germans are obsessed with the art of airing out a room

Lüften took on a whole new meaning in the pandemic as other countries – or at least those that didn’t have the same culture for airing out – began recommending it to people as a way of helping protect against Covid-19 transmission.  

A good German habit

Lüften can quickly become a habit. Whereas before Germany, I was happy to leave a window tilted open for a while to get some fresh air, I’m now obsessed with the proper way to do it. 

I throw open the windows of my flat wide at regular intervals to get that fresh air circulating, even in the dead of winter. When I’m at home in Scotland or on holiday somewhere else, I do the same thing, which can be alarming to people who think you are trying to freeze them.

I find myself feeling pleased when the neighbours across the road from my Berlin flat open their windows or balcony doors wide. It’s like we’re all part of the secret society of fresh air.

There is nothing now that stands between me and Lüften. When I tweeted about this habit, lots of people said they felt a similar way. 

One Twitter user said: “Been telling my family this for years – as they shiver and complain about how cold it is, and my partner and I passive-aggressively follow each other around shutting and reopening windows. Makes for fun times.”

Another said: “My little sister spent an exchange year in Germany before me and when I visited was thoroughly disturbed by her obsessive window opening. A couple years later I was living in Germany and had become a convert, too.”


Hey Karl, Kannst du bitte dein Zimmer lüften?

Hey Karl, can you please air out your room?

In Deutschland muss man die Zimmer richtig lüften.

You really have to air out rooms the right way in Germany.