German phrase of the day: Anspruch

If you ever need to assert your rights in Germany, this word may come in handy.

German word of the day
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know Anspruch?

Because it can be hugely helpful when communicating with the authorities or reading German news, and it’s also a component of numerous other useful words. 

What does it mean?

Der Anspruch (pronounced an.spruch) is a claim or an entitlement, which could be as broad as a monarch having a claim to a throne or an unemployed person being entitled to benefits. It’s used with the preposition “auf”, which stands in for the word “to” in English, so if you’re entitled to money you would have “Anspruch auf Geld”.

If you happen to claim what you’re owed, you would use the phrase “in Anspruch nehmen”, which means to take advantage of an opportunity or right, or to use something, like a service.  

In some case, you may have to demand what you’re owed, and that can be difficult – so don’t forget the word “Anspruchsvoll”, which means demanding or challenging. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Beharren

Where does it come from?

The word Anspruch is composed of two parts: the word “Spruch”, which is the noun form of the verb “sprechen”, and the prefix “an”. 

Prefixes in German can tell you a lot about a word and can often suggest a motion or direction. In the case of “an”, it generally means “to” or “at” – similar to the French “à”

So taken in its literal sense, ein Anspruch is a “saying to”. This could relate to the fact that a claim to something often has to be voiced before it can be recognised: for example, you may have to apply for your housing benefit, or state that you have a claim to an inheritance. 

Slightly confusingly, the verb ansprechen doesn’t mean “to claim”, but rather to address somebody or bring something up. 

Use it like this:

Ich nehme häufig die Leistungen dieses Anbieters in Anspruch.

I often use the services of this provider.

Sie hat Anspruch auf finanzielle Unterstützung – aber sie weißt das gar nicht.

She’s entitled to financial support – but she doesn’t even know it. 

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German word of the day: Umgangssprache

This is a good word to be aware of when you're looking out for phrases to add to your everyday vocabulary in Germany.

German word of the day: Umgangssprache

Why do I need to know Umgangssprache?

We may be getting a little meta here, but we think it’s worth knowing this word so you can listen out for the words around it (or know when not to use this type of language).

What does it mean?

Umgangssprache, which sounds like this, means ‘colloquial language’ or ‘slang’. These are the kinds of words and phrases you might not find in a textbook, but they are heard in everyday life.

By using slang vocabulary, you’ll be able to bring your sentences to life and sound like a true local.

The term is said to have been introduced into the German language by the writer and linguist Joachim Heinrich Campe at the beginning of the 19th century.

Umgangssprache is shaped by the world around it, whether its regional factors or social circumstances of the time. 

Here are a few examples of colloquial phrases and words:

Geil means horny in German, but it is also used colloquially to describe anything you think is cool. In English, you might use the word ‘sick’ or ‘awesome’ in the same context.

Krass is another colloquial word that can mean lots of things. It is usually used to intensify the meaning of something very bad or something very good depending on the tone and context. So something disgusting is krass, and something amazing can also be krass

Das ist mir Wurst translates to ‘that’s sausage to me’, and means you don’t give a toss. 

Das ist doch Käse translates to ‘that’s cheese’ and expresses that you mean something is absolute nonsense. 

And a ruder one is: Das ist am Arsch der Welt. It means ‘that’s the arse of the world’ and refers to a place that is far away or very difficult to reach. In English you might say ‘back of beyond’. 

You would hear these kinds of phrases in relaxed conversations in cafes and bars, but they aren’t so common in formal situations. 

Use it like this:

Ist das Umgangssprache oder kann ich das bei meinem Chef benutzen?

Is that colloquial language or can I use it with my boss?

Mir gefällt die umgangssprachliche Floskel: auf dein Nacken!

I really like the colloquial phrase ‘this is on you!’