Word of the Day – “werben”

werben-werbung-meaning-germHello everyone,

welcome everyone to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll have a look at the meaning and the family of

werben

 

Werben comes from the super ancient Indo-European root *uer. The core meaning of that was  to turn, to bend and a lot of words came from that like whirling, worm or the German werfen (to throw) which is basically talking about bending your arm.
Now, werben very early on shifted from the idea of turning in circles to the idea of running around and back and forth. Not much later people started adding the notion that you do all the busy running because you want to get something and so the word eventually became “to be busy in order to get something“. And very soon this took up the core notion of advertising.

  • Der Ritter wirbt um die Liebe der Prinzessin.
  • The knight courts the princess.

Literally, this means that the knight is all around the princess, being all nice, bringing her flowers, singing her songs, writing her poems, slaying her dragons and opening her gown… well actually, that last bit is why he does all the courting.
Anyway, this courting the knight does is kind of what ads do today. They follow us everywhere and promise us things. In the car, on the web, on the paper towels at the gas station, sometimes on the toilet paper and for sure at home on the couch. They’re around us all day being like “Buy this, buy this, come on, it’s really good.”.
And that’s the core idea of werben…advertising something, both in the narrow sense of real ads as well as for more general promotion.

  • Der Influencer wirbt für das neue Hisptermüsli.
  • The Influencer promotes/endorses the new hipster musli.
  • Der Politiker hat in seiner Rede  um Zustimmung zu seinem Gesetz geworben.
  • In his speech, the politician made a case for/tried to convince the people of his new bill.
    (what’s a good wording here?? Danke :)… sorry for asking so much )

The difference between werben für and werben um is that the um-version has expresses that you personally want to get something while with für it’s really just making promotion. But in that latter sense, it’s probably more idiomatic to say Werbung machen. Literally means to make advertisements but it’s not about actually planning and producing it.

  • Die Band macht Werbung für die neue CD.
  • The band promotes their new CD.

Hmmm… I actually don’t really know what a CD is. But anyway… The noun die Werbung is super common and it’s used for all kind of promotion be it in print or on TV.

  • “War was im Briefkasten?”
    “Nur Werbung.”
  • “Anything in the mail?”
    “Just ads/promotional material
  • Die Werbung auf Youtube fängt an zu nerven.
  • The commercials on Youtube are starting to be annoying.

There are also a lot of compounds like Werbepause (commercial break), Werbegeschenk (give-away for commercial purpise) or Schleichwerbung, which literally translates “sneak ad” and mea…. oh hold on, I need to plug in my laptop, actually… just a second…  I’m at Starbucks, you know. It’s such a great place to work. And I really really love their coffee. Soooo good. Starbucks.
Anyway… now it’s time to move on and take a look at the prefix version of werben.

The Prefix  Version of “werben” – Best Value

First of, there are anwerben and abwerben. The core idea of anwerben is that a  company hires or recruits someone but the word has the added notion that the company makes kind of an effort. Much like the knight in the first example, they have to do some courting. Like… extra vacation, special benefits, guaranteed office flings and other perks. You wouldn’t talk about anwerben if a company gets a new receptionist. Or if you did that would sound like it’s really a kick ass receptionist.

  • Für sein Autoprojekt wirbt Apple tausende Ingenieure an.
  • Apple hires thousands of engineers for their new car project.

 Abwerben is pretty much the same idea, just from the perspective of the companies who’s losing the employee.

  • Ich war bei BMW aber Apple hat mich abgeworben.
  • I was at BMW but Apple poached me.

Now, unless you’re working as a head hunter anwerben and abwerben are not going to be all that useful. But they are they’re the perfect transition to the one prefix version that is:  bewerben.
Taken super literally, this means to inflict advertising on something” and it’s essentially a more direct sounding version of werben.

  • Das Einhorn wirbt für/bewirbt die Zigarettenmarke.
  • The unicorn makes promotion for the cigarette brand.

Both mean the same, only that one uses a preposition and the other one has the target as a direct object. The version with für is much more idiomatic though because bewerben is used in a very specific context… making promotion for yourself.

  • Ich bewerbe mich bei Starbucks. (they’re awesome)
  • I apply for the job at Starbucks.
  • Thomas hat sich für das Stipendium beworben.
  • Thomas applied for the scholarship.
  • Ich bewerbe mich um den Studienplatz.
  • I apply for college (literally: “the place in the studies”)

This meaning  of bewerben has been around for quite a while and most native speakers are not aware of the connection. But it totally makes a lot of sense. .. there’s really no difference between you pimping your CV and lying  in the interview and McDonalds using fake picture of burgers that look like there’s a whole salad bar on them.
You advertise yourself. That’s why  sich bewerben means to apply and that’s why there’s this annoying self reference.

  • Thomas hat sich schon 4 mal  beworben.
  • Thomas has applied 4 times.

Now, besides the verb there are also two nouns, namely die Bewerbung, which means application and der Bewerber, die Bewerberin, which are the persons applying.

  • Maria hat 300 Bewerbungen geschrieben.
  • Maria has written/sent out 300 applications.
  • Sie wollen’s den Deutschen mit uns zusammen zeigen? Dann senden Sie uns ihre Bewerbungsunterlagen an icar@apple.de.
  • You want to put the Germans in their place with us? Then send us your complete application (material/papers) to icar@apple.com.
  • Auf einen Studienplatz kommen 300 Bewerber.
  • There are 300 candidates/applicants for one college place.

Now, the word to apply is actual broader than bewerben. For example you totally wouldn’t use sich bewerben in context of unemployment benefit or other governmental stuff like a visa or something. That would be beantragen and the respective noun would be der Antrag.

  • Maria  beantragt Wohngeld, weil ihr Antrag auf Arbeitslosengeld abgelehnt wurde.
  • Maria  applies for housing assistance because her application for unemployment benefit has been rejected.

Using bewerben in these context sounds really odd because this stuff is NOT about advertising yourself. Ideally, getting housing assistance is an objective process. You don’t have to appeal to anyone, you don’t have to convince anyone, you just have to fulfill the criteria and if you do you’re automatically entitled to it. But however smart of a person you are, you’re not entitled to a place in Stanford.
So… if it’s based on some sort of law then use beantragen, if it’s more about people deciding based on your face  qualifications the bewerben is the word of choice.
All right. And I think we’re almost done for today. There are two more words that deserve a mention: erwerben and das Gewerbe. They’re both based on the older notion of running around and being busy in order to get something in sense of doing actual work.
A Gewerbe is the official German word for some sort of business and if you dive into the financial bureaucracy you’ll see plenty of scary ass compounds like Gewerbesteuerfreibetrag (no idea… something like some fixed deduction of the main business tax) or Gewerbeaufsichtsamt (again, no idea… the office that overlooks businesses)

  • Maria hat ein Gewerbe angemeldet.
  • Maria registered a business.

Erwerben, which is best translated as to acquire , is either used as a fancy alternative for to buy, in sense of gaining experience or skill and it’s an official term for making a living (through work).

  • Ich habe das Fahrrad gebraucht erworben. (fancy)
  • I bought that bike second hand.
  • Im Laufe des Spiels erwirbt ihr Held zahlreiche neue Fähigkeiten und Gegenstände.
  • Throughout the course of the game your hero acquires numerous new skills and items.
  • Marias Bruder ist seit 3 Monaten erwerbslos.
  • Maria’s brother has no income/no job.
  • Die Zahl der Erwerbstätigen ist im dritten Quartal leicht gestiegen.
  • The number of people having a job/having their own income has risen slightly in the third quarter.

There’s actually an incredibly fascinating difference between arbeitslos and erwerbslos. It has something to do with international statistics but I think we’ll have to save that for another time because… I finished up my Gallon Triple Shot Celery Chai Lattuccino with Formula  and now I feel like I need to see a bathroom. For a while. It was very tasty though. Starbucks.
So …this was our look at the verb werben. It’s based in the idea of running around and being busy in order to get something and very early on it shifted toward the idea of … advertising. And combined with the be-prefix it’s and a self reference, it becomes the word for applying for jobs or scholarships or other stuff where you basically have to promote yourself.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to try out some examples and get them corrected, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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Chester
Chester
3 months ago

Hi Emanuel-

Wird “bei” für Unternehmen und “an” für Bildungseinrichtungen verwendet? Ich habe gesehen, wie “an” für College-Bewerbungen verwendet wurde, und kürzlich gelesen:

Die junge Frau bewirbt sich um ein Stipendium an der Universität Frankfurt.

Ist dies eine korreckte Zusammenfassung?

Vielen Dank

EM C
EM C
1 year ago

Danke Emanuel! I habe im Wörterbuch gesehen, dass das Verb “werben” auch direkt mit Akkusativ verbunden werden kann:

(jemanden) durch Werben 1 zu interessieren, zu überzeugen suchen 

neue Abonnenten, neue Kunden werben | Freiwillige werben

is this usage similar to “anwerben”?

EM C
EM C
1 year ago
Reply to  EM C

Ah, hab gerade im Internet so einen Satz gesehen: “Produkte empfehlen, Freunde werben und attraktive Prämien erhalten”. Das Wort “werben” hier kann man auch mit “anwerben” ersetzen?

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

very nice … thanks

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago

Offtopic: Was ist der Unterschied zwischen “es wagen” und “sich wagen”?

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Also, aus dem Duden ausgehend:

Ich wage es, zu behaupten, dass…

Ich wage es, irgendwohin zu gehen…

Ich wage mich auf die Straße.

Aber gibt es auch “Ich wage mich, etwas zu tun”? Und muss man bei “es wagen, etw. zu tun” immer “es” einsetzen?

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago

*vom Duden, natürlich

Betts
Betts
7 years ago

na, toll! nun will ich auch einen Kaffee von Starbucks
diese Schleichwerbungen sind einfach überall ;))

na ja .. vielleicht war es eine negative Werbung aber ich möchte trotzdem den Kaffee :D

Danke schön für noch einen hilfreichen Beitrag

Hunny
Hunny
7 years ago

Now I know why Germans prefer lengthy cover letters and resumes with photos and send copies
of certificates with applications. They are not applying for the jobs. They are actually advertising themselves.
And now I know why I never get a response to my applications. : – (
vielen Dank für die Erklärung.

a.n.onymous
a.n.onymous
7 years ago

“der Bewerber, die Bewerbering” … Bewerbering, with a ‘g’??

Peter Borsada
7 years ago

Do you have an article on ‘bloß’?

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I love “bloß” – it’s one of those great German words that sound just like what they mean (at least to me).

1819423f
7 years ago

Thank you once again for your excellent posts. Always a pleasure to read. Language is so exciting. So, in case you haven’t done it already, maybe you can educate us lost folkes in a skit on werden vs wollen. I swear (I really mean it), there are sentences I see repeatedly in german, that use the finite of wollen which can only be translated to the english will (future). The best I can do is think that someone is willing their wishes out on something which hasn’t occured yet. It happens all the time too. And always stops me in my tracks. Time flies quandering the delimma. I remember too seeing the 2003-2005 ish Movie about Martin Luther, where the actor plazing Luther mentioned wollen as having so many different meanings you could get lost. Please tell us the, What’s up with that. Thanks a bunch.

1819423f
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks. Right. Examples are never available when I need them. I don't usually keep up with such things. I expirience rather than record. Unless typos then, I have seen sentences that use the finite of wollen, usually in a relative clause, that just don't translate well to want, but more to will (english). And these are in german writings, s.a PM Magazin… It's just one of those things I guess and with your reply I keep to the faith that I haven't been missing something obscure.

Marcel
Marcel
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

As in “he wants us to believe that he has seen” or worse “people want us to believe that he has seen”.

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I think the few examples where the German “wollen” and the English “will” occur when there is not really a question involved, or rather the emphasis is not on a future activity, but rather on “desire” or “want or wish.” I got this from listening to the Michel Thomas German course, where he explains this pretty well (i.e. use of “will” to mean “wollen” and not “werden.” For example, when someone says, “Will you come in?” Although we use the question mark, it isn’t really the use of the future, but rather, means, “Do you want to come in?” Same with “Won’t you sit down.” This means “do you want to sit down” and doesn’t imply “future” (are you going to sit down?), so much as “preference to do something, a la “wollen.” I think the Michel Thomas course explains this better than I’m doing here, (it’s been a while since I listened to that lesson) but you get the point (I hope). ;-)

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  alexviajero

P.S. I explained this a little backwards — i.e. when “wollen” is used in German, but the English speaking person perceives the translation as being to the English “will.” Thomas’ lesson explains the exception, when “wollen” does translate to the English usage of “will” (i.e. as not being an indicator of future tense), in his chapter explaining the German modal verbs. Hope I’m being clear…

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Sorry to belabor the point, but here is a link to the Contents section of the beginning Michel Thomas German course, which has some better examples than those I initially wrote above. If you scroll down in the contents part of CD 1, tracks 4 (in the PDF link below), you’ll see where he has a lesson on using “will” in English to indicate “wollen” in German (and not the “will” indicating future tense). I actually listened to the whole program (it was lent to me) which is many hours long, on my iPod last year, and while his language learning Method doesn’t live up to its promise or hype — i.e. learning another language with practically no effort — it really is, in fact, an interesting and useful course. For self-learning, it is, in my opinion, FAR better than Rosetta Stone (and also more interesting than Pimsleur, which I actually also enjoyed), mainly because like you, he explores the evolution of word meanings over time, their linkages to “older” German and English usage, and other insights about the process of learning German, etc… So from a linguistic point of view, although nothing replaces good old-fashioned practice, it’s an interesting complement to other methods of language learning. I wouldn’t recommend buying it because it is quite expensive, but for those who can find it in a library, or get their hands on it for free by borrowing the series from someone who owns it, it is definitely not a waste of time. I listened to all three modules over the course of several months while taking my dog on her daily long walks.

http://www.michelthomas.com/assets/downloads/TOTAL%20GERMAN.pdf

berlingrabers
7 years ago

– Der Blogger wirbt für das neue Hisptermüsli.
– The blogger advertises the new hipster musli.
(how would you actually express that he’s in ads, as opposed to being
the one running the campaign)

I’d say “promotes” or “endorses” are the most basic and neutral. You could also say that he’s “a spokesman for” the muesli. There are some slightly slangier verbs with the same meaning that sound more or less critical of what the blogger is doing:
– hawk
– shill for
– plug

Der Politiker hat in seiner Rede um Zustimmung zu seinem Gesetz geworben.
In his speech, the politician made a case/tried to convince the people of his new bill.
(what’s a good wording here?? Danke :)… sorry for asking so much )

I think the phrase I see/hear a lot for this is “tried to drum up support for.” In the news, more formally, you’d see “sought support for” (past tense of “seek”). Maybe “tried to rally support” (this sounds more like he’s trying to get people who would be expected to support the bill to do so actively, or to overcome an objection they have).

a.n.onymous
a.n.onymous
7 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

“The politician advocated the passage of his bill”, maybe? Incidentally, as you have it now, you’re missing a “for”: “made a case for”.

Jastonite
Jastonite
7 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

I think you have it right with “promote” or “endorse.” “Endorse” is used very often when professional athletes appear in advertisements.

For the political speech, how about “The politician championed his new bill.” If the tone is neutral, I would definitely expect “The politician promoted his new bill.” “Promote” sounds very plain and usual. “Champion” sounds full of energy, like somebody is carrying the Olympic torch or something.

Jastonite
Jastonite
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

The most common way to express that would be “George Clooney is in a Nespresso commercial.” But the most common noun used to describe famous people getting paid to appear in commercial advertisements is “endorsement.” “Endorse” more describes the agreement to appear in ads than the actual appearance. Google “Celebrity Endorsements” and you’ll find exactly this situation. Maybe it is the kind of news I encounter, but I hear “endorsement/endorses” all the time.

“George Clooney is doing ads for Nespresso.”
“George Clooney appears in an ad for Nespresso.”
“George Clooney signs an endorsement deal with Nespresso.”
“George Clooney agrees to endorse Nespresso.”

There’s one more word I’ve thought of. So, when a person has a radio or television show and takes about 15 or 30 seconds to slip an advertisement into the normal content of the show (different than taking a well-defined commercial break), that would be called a “plug.” It describes appearing in an advertisement, but sort of in the celebrity’s natural environment, like in a movie when the action hero pauses and says, “Man, I could use a Coca-Cola right now,” A “plug” is always sort of an aside, not what the main presentation is focused on.

“Steven Colbert plugs Doritos” or “Steven Colbert does a plug for Doritos” would describe Steven advertising (paid or not) during his normal performance.

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  Jastonite

“George Clooney signs an endorsement deal with Nespresso.”

I agree. I thought the very same thing — it is a cumbersome way to express it is English — “signs an endorsement deal”… but that is really the clearest and most usual way it is expressed. “Endorse” as a verb, is usually reserved to people expressing support for a political candidate. “George Bush endorses Hillary Clinton for President in 2016″… *wink wink*

matt
matt
7 years ago

Danke Ihnen für andere einsichtige Kolumne.