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March Idiom:"Einen Haken haben"

edited March 2018 in German
Hello German Learners,

Our idiom for March is "einen Haken haben" which literally translates to "to have a hook" but means "there is a catch". Looking for the catch in the fine print when you are offered, say, a free subscription to a magazine for a year but find out that you would be on the hook for the following nine years, is generally a good idea.


Peter hat eine Beförderung bekommen. Der Haken ist, dass der Job in Nebraska ist.
Peter received a promotion. The catch is that the job is in Nebraska.

Die Wohnung ist toll. Wo ist der Haken? Sie ist in 100 km von der Stadt entfernt.
The apartment is great. What is the catch? It is 100km away from the city.

Obviously, the origin of this idiom is fishing and can be traced to the Middle Ages. You use a hook with tasty bait in order to catch fish. The fish go for it, but, well, there is a hook and the fish will likely die.

So please watch out for the many hooks in life.

Until next month!




  • Danke Anja.  I have a question about your first example.  If I were to add the question "what is the catch" as part of the conversation (say, between you and me), would the following be correct?

    Grace: Peter hat eine Beförderung bekommen, aber....
    Anja: Was ist der Haken?
    Grace: Der haken ist, dass der Job in Nebraska ist.

    I am trying to figure out why you used "wo" instead of "was" in your
    second example....wo ist der Haken.  Is it because you already know that
    the catch is about the location?
  • edited March 2018
    Hi Grace,

    While "Was ist der Haken?" is not wrong and can be easily understood, "Wo ist der Haken?" is better as I'm looking for the precise place that catch can be found. Hence, "wo" is the correct word to use here. Most Germans will say "Wo ist der Haken?" and not "Was ist der Haken?" but the point is minor.

    While I'm answering your question, I see that I made a typo in one of my examples.
    "Sie ist in 100 km von der Stadt entfernt" should really be "Sie ist 100km von der Stadt entfernt"

    I hope this answered your question.

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