How proper is it to use the verb verfügen (über) when relating to non-physical entities, such as mental abilities?

Er verfügt über gute Sprachkenntnisse.

Die Firma verfügt über das Urheberrecht dieses Produkts.

Sie verfügt über hohen Grad von Empathie.

As can be seen in the examples, this can reach fairly abstact levels. DWDS allows this generally. Still, how proper is it to use this verb very abstractly, in common and written language? I have some intuition that this verb has a rather materialistic "touch", I may of course be wrong. What would be good alternatives to it?

  • Just a comment to the use: In an formal text, I would write Ich verfüge über gute Sprachkenntnisse in Englisch und Spanisch or Sie verfügt über hohen Grad von Empathie, in everyday conversation I would say Ich spreche gut Englisch und Spanisch and Sie ist sehr empathisch.
    – Iris
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 9:43
  • All the three sentences are perfectly correct. Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 9:43

1 Answer 1


As shown on the referenced website, "über etwas verfügen" (also) means "to have s.th.".
There's absolutely nothing wrong when using it relating to non physical objects.
On the contrary: Using "verfügen" instead of the simple "to have" gives your text/speech a more "intelligent" touch.

  • This is what I was aiming at – it's too easy to use haben in such cases and I prefer the "intelligent" touch. I think the English parallel possess seems to me intuitively to relate to material ownership. I'm not sure what an English native speaker would say about this, but I may have "übertragen" it to the German,
    – amirdeq
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 7:04
  • 5
    Verfügen literally means to have command of . To have is the shortened meaning, To possess is a derived one.
    – Janka
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 7:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.