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 phrase of the day: Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

Anyone struggling with learning German (or any big skill) could use this popular piece of reassurance.

German phrase of the day: Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

Why do I need to know this?

If you’re getting down on yourself for not doing something you are still learning just right – be it playing the piano or speaking German – you can gently comfort yourself with this phrase. Or you can confidently cite it to reassure your perfectionist friend or family member that they are indeed making great strides towards their goal.

What does it mean?

Literally translated as “There is still no master which has fallen from the sky,” the expression gets the idea across that no one is born – or comes pummeling down from the heavens – as an expert at something.

Rather they become a Meister (or at least halfway decent) through continuous hard work and discipline. 

READ ALSO: 12 colourful German expressions that will add swagger to your language skills

The saying is similar to the also widely used “Übung macht den Meister” (Practice makes the master) or the English version: Practice makes perfect. 

Not surprisingly, Germans – who pride themselves on industriously reaching their goals – have several other equivalent sayings. They include “Ohne Fleiß kein Preis” (There’s no prize without hard work) and “Von nichts kommt nichts” (Nothing comes out of nothing).

Where does it come from?

The popular phrase can be traced back to the Latin “Nemo magister natus”, or no one is born a master. Another version is “Nemo nascitur artifex” or no one is born an artist. This explains why so many languages have similar expressions.

What are some examples of how it’s used?

Sei nicht so streng mit dir selbst. Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. No one is born perfect. 

Mein Trainer sagte, es sei noch kein perfekter Schwimmer vom Himmel gefallen.

My coach said that no one is born a perfect swimmer.

READ ALSO: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust