German word of the day: Bremsen

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
German word of the day: Bremsen
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

When the world (or your vehicle) is moving too fast, this German word will help you slam on the brakes.


Why do I need to know 'bremsen'?

Because it's a word you'll definitely need to know if you're driving or riding a bicycle in Germany, and it can also come in handy when reading about current affairs - especially when it comes to the slow-moving world of German politics.

What does it mean?

Like many German words, bremsen can either be used as a verb or a noun. In its noun form (die Bremsen), it refers to the brakes on your bike or car, which can be a very helpful word to know if you end up at the garage or repair shop.

READ ALSO: Driving in Germany: Eight German road signs that confuse foreigners

In its verb form, it's very closely related: you'd use bremsen to describe breaking or slamming on the brakes in your vehicle of choice. Much like in English, however, you can also use bremsen in a metaphorical way to describe interrupting or slowing down a process. 

In the current traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP), endless arguments and policy disagreements have often put the government's projects on pause.

No matter what's been agreed in theory in the coalition agreement, it seems that the FDP and Greens in particular are more than happy to slam the breaks on legislation - or at least slow it down - when they want to force the other parties into a compromise. In these situations, bremsen is a verb that perfectly describes this political manoeuvre.  


Another place you may well have heard the noun Bremsen in its singular form is in die Schuldenbremse - or debt break - which controls how much money the German government can borrow in each legislative period. 

Use it like this:

Als ich den Unfall sah, konnte ich gerade noch rechtzeitig bremsen.

When I saw the accident, I was able to brake just in time.

Warum wollen die FDP immer wichtige Klimaschutz-Maßnahmen bremsen? 

Why do the FDP always want to put the brakes on important climate protection measures?


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