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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: What is the difference between Urlaub and Ferien?
Ferien and Urlaub can both be translated as “vacation” or “holiday.” Urlaub originally comes from the verb erlauben or “to allow,” meaning you were asking to be allowed to leave work.
Ferien is used to refer to a period of free time with no school or work. These vacations have been set by the government, for example summer holidays, Christmas holidays, Easter holidays, and so on. Urlaub is used to refer to time an individual takes off from work, which is not set by the country or state. It's also used to refer to an actual vacation. For example, A father and mother might apply for Urlaub or “time off work” so that they can go in den Urlaub “on vacation” with their children.
Let’s do some examples so you can see how to use Ferien and Urlaub correctly.
In den Sommerferien hat die Schule zu, for example, means, “The school is closed during the summer holidays.” Here, Ferien is used, as Sommerferien which means “summer holidays.” This is a fixed period of six weeks off set by the government for each of the 16 states.
Let’s do another example. Ich bin nächste Woche nicht im Büro, weil ich Urlaub habe, which means, “I won’t be in the office next week because I have a week off.” Here, Urlaub is used. It's a period of time off work that each individual employee can decide to take at different times.
Let’s do another example with Urlaub. Ich hatte einen tollen Urlaub in Südfrankreich means, “I had a great vacation in the South of France.” In this case, Urlaub means a vacation that individual took that is unrelated to the government-set holidays.
An interesting distinction between Urlaub and Ferien is school children and university students have Ferien and employees have Urlaub. However, in den Urlaub fahren, “to go on vacation” is for everyone!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”