and welcome to our German Word of the Day, this time with a look at the meaning of
And we won’t only look at Drang of course but also at other cool words like dringend or drängeln.
Okay, drängeln isn’t that cool actually. But sometimes you have to do it. Like… when you have to get out of a packed train. Or when the article you’re reading to learn German randomly starts talking about a horse that just stands on a meadow. And it describes how the horse just stands there. And then it eats a bit of grass. And takes a few steps. And then stands there. And you’re like
“Dude, could we get started already?!”
That’s drängeln. So let’s jump right in.
Drang sounds quite similar to another German word: der Zwang. And in fact, the similarity is not only in sound. Zwang (we’ve talked about it in a separate article) translates to compulsion, coercion and it’s is essentially a force that is making you do something and you absolutely can’t resist it.
A Drang is kind of a softer, more “intuitive” version of that. It doesn’t sound as irresistible as Zwang and while Zwang can come from the outside, a Drang is always born within you.
The best translations are probably urge and desire but I’d say Drang is on the upper end if the intensity range of those.
Let’s look at a few examples
- Nicht alle Leute haben den Drang möglichst viel zu reisen.
- Not all people have the urge/desire to travel as much as possible.
- Der Drang, zu rauchen, war sehr stark, aber ich war stärker.
- The desire, urge to smoke was very strong, but I was stronger.
- Ich empfinde starken Harndrang.
- I feel a strong urge to urinate.
- Seit ihrem Urlaub ist Maria voller Tatendrang.
- Ever since her vacation, Maria is full of drive/zest for action.
The origin of the word is a super mega turbo ancient Indo-European root that was about thrusting, compressing.
It’s not entirely sure, but the word truncate might be part of that family and there might be a connection to the word Druck. And regardless of whether that’s actually the case or not, the idea of pressure and thrusting work really great as a core idea for not only the noun but also the verbs. Which brings us right to drängen and drängeln.
drängen and drängeln
The noun der Drang was only about pressure coming from the inside. The verb drängen on the other hand works for outside pressuring. Someone “pressures, shoves” in a certain direction.
- Ich fühle mich von dir dazu gedrängt, noch ein Bier zu trinken.
- I feel pressured by you to drink another beer.
But drängen itself isn’t actually all that common and it’s nothing you’d need in your active vocabulary. The same goes for the prefix versions aufdrängen, which means to “push something on someone”, and bedrängen which is a more physical pushing into someone’s space.
- Manche Zahnärzte versuchen, ihren Patienten teure Extras aufzudrängen.
- Lit.: Some dentists try to push expensive extras onto their patients.
(What would be a good translation here? Is there something a little more pushy than “sell them extras”? Danke :)
- Maria fühlt sich von dem Strassenmagier bedrängt.
- Maria feels hassled, besieged by the street magician.
(dict.cc offers a gazillion translations here, not sure I picked the best ones)
The only word that’s quite common is verdrängen. It’s based in the away-ver and even though it works for quite the range of contexts, the basic idea of “pressuring away” is pretty visible.
- Die ärmeren Bewohner werden nach und nach aus dem Viertel verdrängt.
- The poorer inhabitants are slowly being pushed out of the neighborhood.
- Thomas will seine Probleme nicht verdrängen, sondern verarbeiten.
- Thomas doesn’t want to push away his issues but work through them.
- Archimedes hat das Prinzip der Verdrängung beim Baden erkannt.
- Archimedes realized the principle of displacement while having a bath.
As you can see, this is a pretty useful word and the same goes for drängeln.
These l-versions of verbs often carry a subtle notion of repetition. Drängen is pretty stream lined pressure in one direction. Drängeln is more of an on and off, hard soft, left right kind of thing. And if you’re now like “Huh?” just imagine you’re trying to walk through a dense crowd. Like or a concert or on very busy market. You have your destination and you push a little left, a little right, a little forward, gently, firmly…. THAT is the essence drängeln.
It’s also used on a more abstract sense of trying to make someone hurry, and let’s not forget about the prefix version vordrängeln, which is the German word for jumping the queue/line. Like… you don’t go to the end but somewhere in the middle instead.
- Können Sie bitte aufhören zu drängeln? Die Bahn ist voll und ich kann mich kaum bewegen.
- Could you please stop shoving? The train is packed and I can barely move.
- “Bist du fertig? Wir müssen los.”
“Hör auf zu drängeln. Ich weiß nicht was ich anziehen soll.”
- “Are you ready? We have to go.”
“Stop making me hurry. I don’t know what to wear.”
- Was wenige wissen: Drängeln im Straßenverkehr ist eine Nötigung und somit eine Straftat.
- What only few people know: jostling/tailgating in traffic is coercion and therefore a criminal offense.
- Thomas drängelt sich an der Kasse vor.
- Thomas skips the line at cash desk.
So verdrängen and drängeln are definitely words worth adding to your active vocab, but there’s actually still more.
Just like drängen, dringen itself is not all that useful. It’s kind of similar to drängen in that it’s also about pushing in a certain direction but it’s more about you yourself moving there. And unlike drängen you cannot do it to someone directly… blah blah blah… it’s REALLY boring actually. Just like the example…
- Die Gewerkschaft dringt auf mehr Mitbestimmung.
- The workers’ union pushes for more worker participation.
I know, some of you really like learning rare words and using them in everyday situations. I do likewise on occasion. But trust me… dringen is TOO rare and specific for that and it will not work.
So why are we even mentioning it? Because it has two related words that are SUUUUUPER useful.
The first one is dringend which is the German word for urgently. Something that’s urgent is kind of shoving, pressing itself into your immediate reality, if that makes sense.
- Ich muss dringend mit dir reden.
- I have to talk to you urgently.
- “Ist das dringend?”
“Nee, nicht wirklich.”
- “Is that a matter of urgency?”
“No, not really.”
And the other really useful word is the prefix verb eindringen, which is about something or someone forcing their way inside somewhere. It works for a range of contexts and the translations vary but the basic idea is always pretty clear.
- Wenn es beim Eindringen wehtut, sollte man über Gleitgel nachdenken.
- If it hurts during penetration, you should consider lubricant.
- Der Fuchs hat den Eindringling erfolgreich aus seinem Bau vertrieben.
- The fox successfully chased out the intruder from the den.
- Die Diebe sind über das Dach eingedrungen.
- The thieves entered through the roof.
- Maria bittet Thomas eindringlich, abzuwaschen.
- Maria emphatically asks Thomas to do the dishes.
(it means “in a very intense manner”… not sure if the translation is the best choice)
Oh, and I guess we could also mention aufdringlich. We already had aufdrängen earlier and aufdringlich is kind of the adjective for that and means intrusive, pushy.
- Der Mann in der Bar war zwar nett, aber Maria fand ihn viel zu aufdringlich.
- The guy at the bar was nice, but Maria found him way too intrusive/pushy.
And that’s it for today.
Yeah!! This was our look at the family of Drang. There are a few words and uses that we didn’t cover but I think with the basic idea of pushing, pressing in mind, you’ll be able to get at least the gist of them from context.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you have a Drang to try out some examples, just hop into the comment section. But please no drängeln :). There’s enough room for all of you.
I’m out for now, I hope you had a fun time and learned something.
Have a great week and I’ll see you next time.
** vocab **
der Drang – the urge, desire, compulsion
der Tatendrang – the zest, energy to do something
jemanden drängen zu – push someone to do something (rare!!)
jemanden bedrängen – ( physically ) pushing into someone’s personal space
jemandem etwas aufdrängen – push something onto someone (figuratively)
verdrängen – displace, push out, repress/suppress (psychology)
die Verdrängung – gentrification, displacement, repression
drängeln – shove and push (in crowds), also: nag someone to hurry
vordrängeln – skip the line/queue
dringend – urgently
eindringen – penetrate, percolate, forcefully enter
eindringlich – with high intensity (usually in context of eye contact or questions)
aufdringlich – pushy, intrusive
for about a year I am steadily studying to learn German and I have used all kinds of materials and still using but I find your site most beneficial. it is not directly so didactic but it gives me the main notions and sense of German language which makes me think that what the basic principle and idea of language learning process should be like.
I hope you always continue what you do.
Is it also possible to add the example sentences into the csv file? :p
Possible yes, and I’m planning on doing something like that, but it’s quite a bit of extra work and I don’t have enough time at the moment. The .csv is more like a quick fix, while the real thing is in the works ;)
Just came across another (this time reflexive) use of “aufdrängen” in a student’s paper:
– Beim ersten Studieren … drängen sich eine Reihe von Fragen auf.
Would you take this as “jostle/vie for attention”? Or that they just arise or emerge in a lively (possibly slightly [metaphorically] violent) sort of way?
Hmmm… think of as the questions as a bunch of news reporters closing in on someone who just gets out from a summit meeting. “arise” gets the overall message across but they lack the pushy-ness a bit. The other options, however, sound more naggy than pushy to me. But I’m not a native speaker, so I don’t really know.
Also, it’s very fine distinctions we’re talking about here. All four options would be okay translations.
That’s what I figured. Probably one of those first two versions works – “jostling/vying for attention” is pretty much how I’d describe the reporters in a crowd. I don’t actually need to translate it, though. :)
Anyway, I just thought it was neat that I happened to come across it this week.
By the way, no mention of: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturm_und_Drang ? (English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturm_und_Drang)
I ain’t much for books, you know ;)
The first thing I thought of in regards to the dentist pushing extras, was that he was up-selling. Would that be a reasonable translation?
Depends on how it is done. “upselling” doesn’t have to that pushy, I believe. Like… you can do it in a very subtle way.
I’m thankful to the people who payed some extra, because I got the chance to learn of such an amazing site. Thank you for helping out to people like me !
Hello everyone! I’m Seayon from India. I would like to thank all the fellow members who have payed extra for those who can’t afford this membership. A big shoutout to Emanuel for creating best content for the learners. I’ll try my best to put this opportunity to a good use! #teamspirit :)
Would it be possible that you discuss the many meanings of ansetzen.
Just come across dringlich vs. dringend both mean urgent but in different contexts. Am I right ?
“dringlich” sounds a bit technical/formal to me and I think you’d mostly find that in compounds… the one that came to my mind immediately is “Dringlichkeitssitzung”, which is an emergency meeting.
I pretty much never use “dringlich” and daily life.
thank you for an excellent lesson.
I have problems with the constant recurrent use of both hin and her in conversations. Would you have discussed this in a previous lesson or could you suggest a reference ?
thanks very much !
I haven’t talked about the two back to back yet, but I do have an article about “her-“.
You can find it here:
From Live Science: “A group of foxes are called a leash, skulk or earth, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.” I’ve only heard of “packs.”
Wow, English has so many different names for animal groups (pack, flock, school, skulk, leash, … )
The classic is a group of crows, which is called a “murder.” (Seriously.)
Danke für diese Perle: “Wenn es beim Eindringen wehtut, sollte man über Gleitgel nachdenken.” Klasse!
A related term I encountered recently is
in Bedrängnis sein — to be in dire straits / distress
Great addition, thanks!
It’s a small point, but English foxes don’t live in burrows. Burrows are for small creatures like rabbits and moles. A fox lives in a ‘den’ or an ‘earth’.
Oh wow, I didn’t know that. And “earth”? Does anybody know if that is the same word as the planet or if it’s just two words that happened to have the same spelling?
I’d never heard “earth” as a term for a fox’s dwelling. Interesting. It’s definitely the same word, though, at least based on dictionary.reference.com.
“Den” would probably be the most appropriate term I’d think of for where a fox lives, but I don’t think “burrow” would come across as wrong to most laymen (like me) – they’re really the same thing, and “burrow” is likely to be the word a dictionary will use to explain what an “earth” in this sense is.
Ich wollte ein bißchen mehr über drängeln in Verkehr verstehen. Ist das nur wenn man sehr nah hinter ein anderen Auto fährt, oder kann es auch verwenden werden in so eine Angelegenheit wo man häufig lanes? wechselt –was auf Englishen “weaving in an out of traffic” genannt würde? (und bitte korrigier mein Deutsch!)
Gute Frage. Ich bin selber kein Autofahrer, aber ich persönlich würde Spurwechsel nicht als drängeln empfinden. Wenn jemand die Spur wechselt, dann macht er ja im Endeffekt Platz.
“drängeln” impliziert für mich ein bisschen, dass jemand was von meinen Platz nehmen will.
Danke für deine Antwort! (und für das Wort Spur : )
Hello Emmanuel, in a future post, could you discuss the many meanings of ansetzen. thank you
Did you check out the Word of the Day on “spüren”? There’s more details in there:
“a dentist pushing” is good phrasing – a medical profi akin to a drug dealer, both upselling their wares to rapt audiences.
regarding “eindringlich”, i think instead of poignantly, “emphatically” may be better, esp. when it comes to being pushed into dishwashing.
(shakespeare might have been beseeched to do it, had he not had such delicate hands…)
Oh, yeah, I was going to comment on “eindringlich” – “poignant” really means “emotionally powerful/resonant.” I thought he was probably going for “pointedly,” which I think would fit.
I think a good description would be “with high intensity and urgency”. Like… in a movie when at the third act someone says “We need to stop him!” about the villain.
I agree with berlingrabers. Poignant does not imply the sense of forcefulness or desire to apply pressure in this context.
For which one? I don’t see the Drang/dringen family as pointing to something as strong as “coerce” – for that you need “zwingen.”
In response to: (What would be a good translation here? Is there something a little more pushy than “sell them extras”?)
What you wrote, (Some dentists try to push expensive extras onto their patients.) is OK. Perhaps “Some dentists try to push their patients into buying expensive extras,” but your version was spot on in my ears.
Does “on” weirdly sound a little more idiomatic to you than “onto”? It kind of does for me, maybe making it sound a little less literal/spatial. Looks like Google agrees: “try to push * on you” gets close to 7,000 hits, while “try to push * onto you” gets under 1,000.
At any rate, “push something on(to) someone” is absolutely right.
Oh, and in Amerikanerin’s alternative version, you could also use “pressure” as a verb:
– Some dentists try to pressure their patients into buying expensive extras.
Hello, fellow German-learners!!! I’m Giorgi from Georgia :)) I just want to say that im very very thankful for the fact that now I’m a part of the community! All thanks to the memebrs who have payed extra for those who can’t afford a membership. It feels like the place is all about learning and helping and developing (shout-out to Emanuel for creating it) which motivates me even more and I promise I’ll do my best to put the opportunity to a good use! #teamspirit
– Der Drang, zu rauchen, war sehr stark, aber ich war stärker.
– The desire, urge to drink a beer was very strong.
Was it a Rauchbier? ;)
– Maria fühlt sich von dem Strassenmagier bedrängt.
– Maria feels hassled, besieged by the street magician.
(dict.cc offers a gazillion translations here, not sure I picked the best ones)
“Hassled” sounds good to me. “Besieged” is sort of odd – if it’s a guy who knows her who’s always hounding her for a date or whatever, that could work. But “hassled” or “harassed” would work.
Ups, was für ein fetter Fehler. Danke :).
Aber Rauchbier gibt es tatsächlich. Schmeckt nach Rauch und Bier und ich mag es manchmal sehr gerne:
Hast du das schonmal probiert?
Ja, mag ich auch! Aecht Schlenkerla war im Kaiser’s (bzw. mittlerweile Rewe) bei uns oft zu finden. Allerdings findet meine Frau den Geruch absolut eklig. Einige amerikanische Brauereien haben auch verschiedene Rauchbiersorten gebraut, z.B. Stone Smoked Porter. (Warst du schon mal in der Stone-Brauerei in Mariendorf? Schweineteuer aber man kann da richtig gut essen und trinken.)
Nee, aber ich wollte schon immer mal hin.
Und der Stone Brew Gründer war mal mit seiner Frau in der Bar wo ich gearbeitet habe. Die waren super chill. Ein typischer Kalifornier :)
I might also say “Maria feels badgered”.
“Badgered” is a good one. At least on TV, you hear it in the courtroom setting, where an attorney objects that the opposition is “badgering the witness” (i.e. asking questions in a pushy, overly aggressive way to keep the witness off balance).
Oh, nice example. I would use “bedrängen” there (though I’m not sure how they speak in an actual court room).