German word of the day: Fordern

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
German word of the day: Fordern
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

This versatile word isn’t quite translatable to English - largely because it has so many implied meanings and uses.


Why do I need to know Fordern?

Fordern often appears in German newspapers when a politician or other public figure wants to advocate strongly for or demand something.

What does it mean?

Depending on the context, fordern is a verb that can mean to call for, support, advocate for or demand something. It can also mean to assert your rights, or to hold someone accountable.

Going back to a political example - just this week, we saw Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey advocate for an energy price cap. One headline read: Giffey fordert ein Energiepreisdeckel which means something like: Giffey calls for an energy price cap.

Berlin public transport authority BVG also ran posters encouraging women to apply by highlighting the extensive career development and support they can expect to receive in a career with BVG.

Many of the posters read Wir fordern Frauen! - to establish the strength and enthusiasm of the promised support for women. Fordern is not usually a word you use when you want to keep your emotion muted or ambiguous.

Instead, it's typically a stronger, more evocative word. Using fordern to mean “support” implies a stronger, more enthusiastic support than unterstützen, for example - which often sounds more muted.

Precursors to fordern were used in both Old High German and Middle High German, which may account for its many uses.


Use it like this:

You can assert your rights with fordern, with Ich fordere mein Recht, - “I claim my rights.”

And you can “demand” something with fordern. Er forderte eine gerechte Bezahlung simply means “he demands fair payment.”

You can also demand entry somewhere, with “Ich fordere Einlass!” - or "I demand entry!" Although it may not be the best idea to try that at Berlin’s Berghain.


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