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What is correct, between

(a) Ich lerne schwimmen.

and

(b) Ich lerne zu schwimmen.

or both? If both are correct, is there a difference in meaning?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Well, actually both are correct and there is no difference in meaning. In German, you sometimes have a "longer" and a "shorter" form of stating the same thing. However, this also depends on whether you use it in everyday's spoken or written language.

As far as your example goes there however could be a difference in grammar.

Ich lerne (das) Schwimmen.

This would mean that you are using the noun "Schwimmen" here (together with its article "das", if you want to). It would basically mean exactly the same but you are using the noun form of the verb swim (Substantiviertes Verb).

Ich lerne zu schwimmen.

What you are using here is the Infinitive with "zu" combination. You combine a verb with "zu."

Still, as far as I know, you can also use

Ich lerne schwimmen.

which would be simply just the verb's Infinitive.

Hope that helps.

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2  
I would like to add that „ich lerne schwimmen“ die übliche Variante ist. –  Carsten Schultz Jan 15 at 8:48
1  
"In German, you sometimes have a longer and a shorter form of stating the same thing"... this is true for ANY language and German is not particularly good about it with all its subtle differences. This sentence should be removed because it has no information and it implies (for a student) that there are always two options (with and without zu) when in reality this "lernen + Inf" is one of a few exceptions to an otherwise quite strict rule –  Emanuel Jan 15 at 10:03

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