In a company flyer I just came across this formulation in a paragraph on quality management:

Wir arbeiten kontinuierlich an unseren Qualitätsdefiziten

It is obvious that they meant something like "We continuously work to overcome quality deficits".

Is the expression "arbeiten an" appropriate in this context?

  • This is great! You're showing a very good example where the sentence say both: "we're working on getting better" and "we're working increasing the quaility of our deficits" ... thanks for this!
    – blindfold
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 15:48

3 Answers 3


"Arbeiten an" is used both for things you want to achieve:

Er arbeitet an einem Projekt.

... and things you want to overcome:

Er arbeitet an seinen Defiziten.

A quick glance at the Google results for "arbeiten an" indicates that the former usage is by far the most common, but both are correct.

  • 1
    You can even say "Sie arbeitet ständig an sich." which means "she continously works to improve herself".
    – 0x6d64
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 9:55

Arbeiten an is best translated as working on. So literally it is "We continuously work on our quality deficits".


From the context it's pretty obvious what the writer means. Stylistically (and given this is taken from a company image brochure) though it would be better to write a clear and unambiguous sentence:

Wir arbeiten kontinuierlich daran, unsere Qualitätsdefizite zu beseitigen.

Note: That company is obviously still working on their quality deficits. ;-)

  • +1 for the ambiguity. Maybe they're also working hard to increase their quality deficits... :) Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 13:31
  • "Wir arbeiten kontiernuierlich daran, unsere Qualitätsdefizite zu minimieren." - Would be more precise.
    – blindfold
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 15:48
  • @blindfold I think you don't want to read that in a brochure.
    – splattne
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 17:35
  • @splattne I fully agrree on this! I don't think I want to read about quality deficits in any broschure, do you? - "minimieren" is a little less offensive than "beseitigen"
    – blindfold
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 7:36

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