I read this in a newspaper article discussing some possible measures for a Corona virus lockdown. The journalist wanted to say that a particular interest group is against a specific measure and used the expression "eine Ablehnung erteilen".

This struck me as an odd phrase because this group can express their opinion but they don't actually get to make any of the relevant decisions. Is this a proper use of this expression?

  • 2
    Could you cite the phrase from the article please? Jan 19 at 0:09
  • @calculatormathematical it was on die Zeit but I didn't find it anymore. It was posted 2 days ago and articles change quickly.
    – quarague
    Jan 19 at 9:10

The used phrase seems to be have been patched together on the fly. While eine Abfuhr erteilen is frequently used, the combination Ablehnung erteilen sound strange. Erteilen frequently suggests an official statement, which does not seem appropriate for a disagreement (no matter, how intense).

I agree, that an interest group can only voice its opinion and desires, but hardly issue an official decision.

DWDS (see section "Typische Verbindungen") lists auf Ablehnung stoßen as one of the most frequent combinations.

Considering comments: I guess, that in the given examples it is simply sloppy phrasing (as opposed to an established technical phrase): a person has to accept (Zustimmung erteilen), while a proposal would be rejected (auf Abstimmung stoßen). This would require more complicated phrasing, so I consider the examples (acceptance or rejection of browser cookies, acceptance or rejection of vaccination) as preference of a slightly ugly use of verb (so it can be shared) to cleaner phrasing.

(Abfuhr erteilen would share the verb more easily, but has a somewhat rough connotation.)

Of course, plenty of alternatives exist, like

Zustimmung erteilen oder verweigern or even simpler: zustimmen oder ablehnen

  • I guess it rather should have been eine Absage erteilen but it's hard to tell without context.
    – RHa
    Jan 19 at 9:58
  • "Ablehnung erteilen" sounds in fact strange, but it is used as a Google search shows, See here and here. It seems to be a technical term: "Sie können jederzeit den verschiedenen Cookie-Kategorien Ihre Zustimmung oder Ablehnung erteilen oder nur ganz gezielt bestimmte Cookies zulassen."
    – Paul Frost
    Jan 20 at 0:59

First lets look at the word "Ablehnung"


feminine noun

  1. (= Zurückweisung) refusal; (von Antrag, Bewerber etc) rejection auf Ablehnung stoßen to be refused/rejected, to meet with a refusal/a rejection
  2. (= Missbilligung) disapproval auf Ablehnung stoßen to meet with disapproval

This answers half the question, even if the said group has no vote in the matter they are able to publicly reject a given proposal or measure. In other words to take a stance, let their position be known, issue a statement that in case was public (and caries with it the groups weight).

The other word,


transitive verb

to give; Genehmigung auch to grant; Auftrag auch to place (jdm with sb); Lizenz to issue jdm einen Verweis erteilen to reproach sb

Simply means in this case, "to impart", "to make known", "to give them knowledge off".

  • 1
    For me, the conclusion is missing. You described what both words mean, but can they go together? Would the combination be understood, idiomatic, odd? Jan 19 at 9:05
  • @BjörnFriedrich absolutely yes, so obvious it goes without saying. But if you want to take the time and effort and write your own answer - be my guest.
    – bad_coder
    Jan 19 at 10:42

It seems to me that in the case you have described, the author confounded the phrase "eine Abfuhr erteilen" (to reject) with "eine Ablehnung erteilen" (to issue a formal rejection). The latter phrase is only used when a legal entity (a person, company, or institution) makes use of their legal right to reject a legally effective call for action, e.g. a private health insurance company rejects the application of an applicant:

Eine private Krankenversicherung erteilt einem Anwärter eine Ablehnung auf seinen Antrag.

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