I wanted to write something like:

Wir müssen die Sonnenstrahlen / Sonnenstrahlungen in Anspruch nehmen, weil man dadurch umweltfreundliche und nachhaltige Energie generieren kann.

I checked Duden for Strahl and Strahlung, but I'm still not sure which one to use here, or are both ok?

  • Why did you not Post two or three examples showing "Strahl" and "Strahlung" in useful contexts? Jul 16, 2022 at 22:14
  • @RobbieGoodwin sorry if you found my question misleading in any way, the Duden hyperlinks above contain some useful examples. Jul 17, 2022 at 22:34
  • Thanks and it's not your readers' job to figure out what links might lead to… It's your job to Post the examples. Who thinks I'm mistaken, please shout out here and now! Luckily for you, some Members with wider knowledge ran with it. Jul 18, 2022 at 20:32
  • @RobbieGoodwin Why would I post examples that I don't have problems with? I only posted one example, because this is the only example in which I didn't know which one of the two words to choose, posting more examples would've made my question unnecessarily long and could have diverted the attention away from the main example Jul 18, 2022 at 23:45

3 Answers 3


"Strahl" means ray and "Strahlung" means radiation. Notably "Strahlung" usually is uncountable and has no plural as it is the entirety of emitted rays, who jointly form the radiation (field); this argument holds both, in German and English. Sometimes the plural is used to describe different types of radiations, though in my experience phrased differently, like in "Strahlungsarten".

As to your example, the more ideomatic expression is "mit etwas Energie erzeugen":

Wir müssen die Sonnenstrahlen / Sonnenstrahlung nutzen, weil man damit umweltfreundliche und nachhaltige Energie erzeugen kann.

"Sonnenstrahlung" is a bit unusual and one would rather use "die Strahlung der Sonne" or "der Sonnenschein"

Or leave out both:

Wir müssen die Sonne in Anspruch nehmen, weil sie umweltfeundliche und nachhaltige Energie liefert.

  • 4
    The plural "Strahlungen" might (rarely) be used to mean "different kinds of radiation".
    – Bergi
    Jul 16, 2022 at 19:30
  • 1
    I pondered about that during writing the answer. While it could be formed that way, and it would be understood, I couldn't find it in my literature. It is always Strahlungsarten or similar. Jul 16, 2022 at 21:55
  • I wonder how you go about counting the sun's rays? Jul 17, 2022 at 11:16
  • 1
    Not sure why you say, „Sonnenstrahlung“ is a bit unusual. In the given context, referring to the energy of the sun,„Sonnenstrahlung“ it’s definitely the most common way to say it (but note the singular).
    – not2savvy
    Jul 17, 2022 at 18:03
  • "Strahlungen" by Ernst Jünger
    – bakunin
    Jul 18, 2022 at 8:24

Conclusion: both are acceptable (as you assumed after consulting a dictionary)
Reasoning: in technical terms, you want to capture the energy of electromagnetic waves.
Now, Strahlung =^= radiation and Strahlen =^= rays
It is just a matter of style, regarding the target audience and kind of publication that is intended: Strahlung is the more formal, Strahlen the more colloquial, even poetic style.

  • 2
    Sonnenstrahlungen is not acceptable though
    – Bergi
    Jul 16, 2022 at 19:32

Strahlung only applies to energetic waves, (the composite Ausstrahlung has an entirely different meaning). For everything else, water from the tube or tap, coffee from the coffee pot just Strahl is correct. It is worth to look up other reference works as well, such as DWDS, which I consider quite complete.

Note, that we have an overlap in Sonnenstrahl which denotes a single distinct ray, while Sonnen(ein)strahlung and connected UV-Strahlung denote measurable physical units.

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