Many learners of German appreciate it for its stackable properties. You can link otherwise unrelated concepts together into one word, and if you recognize the individual pieces, very often the sum total meaning of the word is a snap. Let’s take Inanspruchnahme as an example. You may have seen it in the fine print of various types of service contracts: insurance, telecommunications, and the like.
in Anspruch nehmen
Inanspruchnahme is a nounified verb1. In Anspruch nehmen means “to make use of,” “lay claim upon,” or in the legal sense, “to exercise (a right).” Let’s divide and conquer, starting off verkehrt with nehmen.
“Hey, do you need help moving to your new apartment this weekend?”
“Nein, danke, im ersten Schritt nicht, aber vielleicht nächstes Wochenende nehme ich das tolle Angebot gerne in Anspruch.”
The construction in Anspruch, even though it’s always written separately from nehmen, works just like a separable-prefix: the main part of the verb (nehmen) goes where you’d expect in the sentence structure.2
Nehmen means “to take” and is an i→ie stem-changer in the present tense, so you know it’s going to have a checkered past, as well.
|ich nehme||wir nehmen|
|du nimmst||ihr nehmt|
|er/sie/es nimmt||sie/Sie nehmen|
|ich nahm||wir nahmen|
|du nahmst||ihr nahmt|
|er/sie/es nahm||sie/Sie nahmen|
And for good measure:
But it’s really the preterite stem that’s useful to us here: nahm. Throw an -e on it and consider it the nounified form of “to take,” or perhaps “taking.” You find that it in other useful contexts, as well:
|die Abnahme||take down||weight loss, decrease, acceptance|
|die Aufnahme||take up||recording, admission (to a hospital)|
|die Ausnahme||take out||exception|
|die Einnahme||take in||ingestion|
|die Kenntnisnahme||take notice||attention|
|die Stellungnahme||take a stand||taking of a position (in a debate)|
|die Teilnahme||take part||participation|
|die Zunahme||take toward||weight gain, increase|
Likewise Anspruch is another verb hiding in noun’s clothing. You may recognize the verb ansprechen as “to address” as in “to speak to someone,” but did you know it also means “to address (a problem or topic)”? If we tromp through the conjugation patterns of sprechen, (it is also an i→ie stem-changer) we won’t find a mention of Spruch.3 But you find sprechen in one of its nounified forms all over the courtroom:
- der Ausspruch4
- der Einspruch
- der Freispruch
- der Urteilsspruch
- der Widerspruch
der Anspruch is a claim, entitlement, or demand, and something that is anspruchsvoll is demanding. Surely you know someone with an inflated sense of entitlement: das ist ein anspruchsvoller Mensch.
What’s the point of the in here then? We’ve established nahme, Spruch, and Anspruch.
Well, in is the activator. Your option, resource, alternative, can of Whoop-Ass, etc. exists, theoretically, whether you make use of it or not. You need to take it off the shelf and get it ready for deployment. You do that when you take it in Anspruch.
ansprechen + nehmen
Anspruch + nahme5
Then fire it up with in as the catalyst.
in + anspruch + nahme = Inanspruchnahme
Thus Inanspruchnahme is the act of availing one’s self of something.
In the spirit of putting it all together, and equipping one’s self for future glory, here’s a familiar usage of Sprach.
Now go make use of your new tools.
- So is ‘nounification.’ They’re real words if we say they are. [↩]
- that is to say, in the second position in main clauses, or reattached at the end of a Nebensatz. Except that it’s not even fully reattached by writing convention. [↩]
- The stem changes in the preterite forms to a and o in the past participle. Keep reading for a subtle shout-out to sprach. [↩]
- Not to be confused with die Aussprache! [↩]
- nahme is not a noun on its own; it needs a preposition or other noun when it goes out in noun drag. [↩]