German word of the day: Fordern

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

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

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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


German word of the day: Kneipe

This is a spot you might visit at the end of the working day - or Feierabend.

German word of the day: Kneipe

Why do I need to know Kneipe?

Because you may be invited to one or need to find one on the map. 

What does it mean?

Die Kniepe, which sounds like this, is the name for a pub in German where people gather to drink beverages. This isn’t a fancy cocktail bar – it’s a neighbourhood watering hole, and forms part of the make-up of towns and cities across Germany. It’s usually unpretentious, often small and in some places – like Berlin – it can be smoky. In that case, you might see a a Raucherkneipe (smoking pub) sign on the door or window. 

The word has been around since the 18th century and is an abbreviation of Kneipschenke. A Kneipschenke was a super-cramped premise where guests had to pack in and sit squeezed together.

The noun Schenke is a tavern, while Kneipe is said to come from the verb kneipen meaning “to press together” or “be close together”, which has been documented in Middle German and is a loanword from the Middle Low German word knīpen. That word is related to High German’s kneifen, which means “to pinch”. 

Kneipen don’t always have the best reputation. You might also get some suspicious looks if you crash a very local Kneipe that is used to only serving regulars or Stammgäste. But they are usually friendly and charming, and give an insight into life in Germany. So perhaps ask your German friends for a tip on a cool Kneipe to visit. Just don’t expect the staff to speak English like you usually find in hipster bars! 

If you’re hungry, keep in mind that Kneipen usually don’t serve food. Pubs that do serve hot food are more likely to be called a Wirtschaft or Lokal.

You can also do a pub crawl (eine Kneipentour machen) if you can handle the amount of booze (or switch to non-alcoholic drinks). 

How to use it:

Treffen wir uns am Freitag nach Feierabend in der Kneipe.

Let’s meet in the pub on Friday after work finishes.

Ich gehe mit den Jungs in die Kneipe.

I’m going to the pub with the lads.