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German word of the day: Kette

From describing the stunning natural landscape in Germany's lake district to understanding international trade issues, this is a German word you won't be able to do without.

German word of the day
Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know Kette? 

While it may not be too useful by itself, Kette is a noun you’ll find attached to other words in many of Germany’s famous compound nouns – so it’s definitely worth knowing what it means.

In fact, you’ll hear it everywhere from the bike repair shop to news articles about economics and even chemistry analogies. 

What does it mean?

The feminine noun die Kette (pronounced like this) is the same as the English word ‘chain’. It’s what keeps your wheels moving on your bicycle and what jewellers use to make necklaces (or Halzketten in German – literally, throat chains). 

Like the English ‘chain’ though, Kette is an incredibly versatile word that can describe anything that’s linked to something else. For instance, the northern state of Brandenburg has a famous Seenkette – a chain of lakes that weaves through the rural landscape for several miles.

When you’re reading about the fall-out from the Covid pandemic, you may hear about issues with the Lieferketten – or supply chains – that have affected trade between Europe and China in particular. When you’re at a protest or demonstration, you may see people link arms to form a Menschenkette – or chain of people – and it’s pretty normal to decorate your home with Lichterketten (fairy lights) at Christmas time. 

There’s also a helpful idiom (originally from chemistry and physics) that you can use to describe a situation where a small event spirals into a larger one. When a situation like this is getting out of hand, you may worry that something you’ve done has set off a Kettenreaktion – or chain reaction. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Klartext

Use it like this: 

Seine Worte lösten eine unangenehme Kette von Ereignissen aus.

His words set off an unpleasant chain of events.

Kannst du mir bitte helfen? Meine Fahrradkette is abgesprungen.

Can you help me please? My bike chain’s come off. 

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For members


German word of the day: Sommerlich

Dazzling blue skies and sweltering temperatures mean summer has arrived in Germany, and if you're looking for a word to describe how that feels, this is the perfect one to choose.

German word of the day: Sommerlich

Why do I need to know sommerlich?

Because this joyful word is not just easy to remember, but is also great for describing those days in Germany when the sun is shining and everyone seems to be in a relaxed and happy mood – as well as many other aspects of summer.

What does it mean?

As you might have guessed, sommerlich (pronounced like this) is an adjective that’s very close to the English word “summery” or “summer-like”. It describes anything that is typical of this time of year, whether you’re talking about the weather, what you’re drinking or the look you’ve gone for on a particular day.

For example, if you head out to the countryside for a short summer break, you might find yourself in the midst of a sommerliche Landschaft: a summery landscape with forests and fields with wild flowers in full bloom. 

Or you could be taken by surprise by a sudden heat wave and express regret that you haven’t had a chance to restock your sommerliche Klamotten, or summery clothes. 

READ ALSO: 10 words to help you enjoy the German summer

Mostly, though, you’ll find this word used to talk about those classic summer days with balmy weather and sunny skies, or weather conditions that feel like summer – even if it’s the wrong time of year. 

If you want to say something is more summery than something else, sommerlicher is the word you’ll need, and if something is the most summery of all, it’s am sommerlichsten

Use it like this: 

Bei diesen Temperaturen will ich immer ein erfrischender und sommerlicher Getränke in der Hand haben. 

In these temperatures I always want a refreshing and summery drink in my hand.

Ich liebe diese entspannte sommerliche Tage! Es ist wie im Urlaub zu sein. 

I love these relaxed summer days! It’s like being on holiday.