German word of the day: Bemühen

If you're putting in the time and effort it takes to learn German - even if it isn't perfect yet - this handy word will communicate just how hard you've tried.

Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know bemühen?

Because this elegant verb is perfect for describing a range of situations, from learning a new skill or working on a project to helping out a friend in need. Not only that, but it’s also a great way to practice using reflexive verbs, which you’ll come across a fair bit in German.

What does it mean?

Sich bemühen means to make an effort, strive or endeavour to do something. It can be used to talk about any occasion when you’re putting in a lot of work on something or trying your best, like preparing for an exam or learning a new language. 

If, on the other hand, you think someone is inconveniencing themself on your behalf, you can use bemühen to gently tell them it’s unnecessary. In these cases, “Bitte bemühen Sie sich nicht” means something along the lines of, “Please don’t trouble yourself”. 

It can also be used in a more formal context, like describing business goals or plans, or laying out your objectives to a client. For example, you might tell one of your customers, “Wir werden uns bemühen, die beste Lösung zu finden” (We’ll endeavour to find the best solution) to reassure them that you’re ready to put the work in to solve their issue. 

It’s worth noting that bemühen is a reflexive verb, which essentially means the subject of the verb (the person doing the thing) is also the object (the person the thing is being done to). One easy way to remember this is to think of the verb waschen (meaning “to wash”), which can be use as a reflexive verb if you’re talking about having a wash, or washing yourself. 

READ ALSO: The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

Where does it come from?

The verb bemühen comes from the German noun, Mühe, meaning trouble, effort or toil. Looked at like that, sich bemühen can be seen as subjecting yourself to a period of hard work in order to reach your goals. 

As an alternative to bemühen, you can also say “sich Mühe geben” which literally means to give effort, but can best be translated as making an effort.

You can also use the adjective mühsam to describe something that’s arduous or laborious. 

Use it like this: 

Zur Zeit bemühe ich mich, mein Deutsch zu verbessern.

I’m striving to improve my German at present. 

Wir haben uns bemüht, das Projekt so schnell wie möglich fertig zu stellen.

We made every effort to complete the project as quickly as possible.

Member comments

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


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.