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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Festhalten

This common German verb often confuses foreigners because it has a wide range of meanings. We break down what they all mean.

German word of the day: Festhalten
Photo: DPA

“Festhalten.” Whether used to express that your sticking to your values or to acknowledge an important situation, this common German word has a slew of meanings. Google lists at least nine words as English translations.

Let’s break down exactly what's going on, and how you are most likely to hear or read “Festhalten” in day-to-day life in Germany.

Hold on tightly

We'll start with a simple definition: “Festhalten” can mean “to hold on.” This meaning can be applied to grabbing or holding for any reason: to avoid a fall, to cling for support, to clip documents together, or to stop the other from moving. 

A seven-week old Jaguar holds on to her caretaker in Berlin's Tierpark. Photo: DPA 

Example: 

“Auf der Achterbahn musst du dich festhalten.”

“You must hold on tight to the roller coaster.”

Capture or detain

Another definition of “Festhalten” is to capture or detain someone and keep them from leaving an area. This term can also apply specifically to police. 

Example: 

“Mann hat Sie in der nächsten Statt festgehalten.” 

“They apprehended her in the next city.”

Document or record

The following definition can mean to document or record something through any means. This can include video, audio or the written word. 

Example:

“Es war alles in einem Tagebuch festgehalten.”

“It was all recorded in a diary.”

Acknowledge or confirm

Another definition of Festhalten is to “confirm” or “acknowledge” something important.   

Example: 

On an 80th birthday party someone might toast:

“Ich möchte festhalten, dass wir alle noch hier sind und es uns gut geht.” 

“I want to acknowledge that we are all still here and doing well.”

“Wir halten fest, 21:10 wurde eingebrochen.”

“We confirm, at 9:10 pm there was a burglary.”

'Festhalten' can also express loyalty to a belief or way of life. Photo: DPA

Expressing loyalty

Finally, “Festhalten” can also refer to a fierce loyalty to something. Someone who is adverse to change, resolutely standing by a tradition or way of life, is “holding on tight.” 

Example: 

“Die CDU (Christliche Democratische Union) Politiker möchten sich an der Christlichen Tradition in Deutschland festhalten.”

“The CDU (Christian Democratic Union) politicians would like to maintain Christian tradition in Germany.” 

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
 
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.
 
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