German phrase of the day: Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier

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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.