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From an infinitive (say wegwerfen), one can form a neutral, gerund-like noun (das Wegwerfen — and more complex constructions abound, e.g., das Deutschlernen, das Insbettgehen).

Now on the one hand, in English, one would say:

I like going to the bed.

In German this would be (taking into account the gerund form):

Ich mag das Insbettgehen.

On the other hand, in French, one would say:

J'aime aller au lit.

which would naturally translate as:

Ich mag ins Bett gehen.

How does one choose between the two constructions? For instance, in the following zu cases:

  • Das ist ein Podcast zum Deutschlernen.
    Das ist ein Podcast um Deutsch zu lernen.

  • Wir haben viel Glas zum Wegwerfen.
    Wir haben viel Glas wegzuwerfen.

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    "Ich mag das Insbettgehen" rather expresses the general preference of going to the bed. "Ich mag ins Bett gehen", in contrast, means that you'd like to go to bed right now. – I don't see a difference in the Podcast-example, but there's clear difference in the last sentence. "zum Wegwerfen" connotes that you have (=possess) a lot to throw away, "wegzuwerfen" tells that you must throw it away. – Em1 Dec 13 '14 at 13:42
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    It is extremely interesting that you find no difference in the Podcast example but one in the last one. Any general rule that you could deduce from that? I've asked around this question for quite some time, and the only answer I got has been "Das ist ein Gefühl", which is a source of infinite frustration. ☺ – Michaël Dec 13 '14 at 13:47
  • "Ich mag ins Bett gehen" sounds to me like "It looks like i'm going to bed" – Anh Phong Dec 13 '14 at 14:06
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This problem is a matter of stylistics rather than of grammar. There can't be grammar rules about the way how you can express your ideas. Grammar is concerned about correctness and mistakes, but not about how things are expressed in the normal idiomatic way or elegantly or clumsily. "Ich mag das Insbettgehen" is clumsy in my view. Furthermore the question arises: Alone or with your girl-friend?

  • Thanks for your input! If it were only a stylistic difference, then there would not be any semantic difference; it seems that it is not the case. Also, I have a very friendly Teddy, and he is the one I like to sleep with. For lack of better options. – Michaël Dec 16 '14 at 9:51
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A possible difference I could think of is that um zu mostly refers to an action (e.g.: "Ich arbeite hart um Deutsch zu lernen") and it's purpose and is roughly equivalent to "in order to." Hence why I may be slightly less inclined to say "ein Podcast um Deutsch zu lernen," and would prefer "ein Podcast zum Deutschlernen" ("a podcast in order to learn German" sounds rather unusual in English as well; though likely a little more unusual than the German equivalent).

In the case of your second example, strictly speaking, "Glas zum Wegwerfen" implies that throwing it out is the purpose for which the glass was acquired in the first place, while "wir haben Glas wegzuwerfen" signifies the necessity to do something, which may be more appropriate.

Not that these are nuances which tend to distinguish native speakers of German from non-natives even when they are fairly advanced, but they are certainly not crucial in order to be understood.

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I like to go to bed.

Ich mag ins Bett gehen.

You want to go to bed in this very moment. Maybe you're tired, are depressed or whatever, but in any case you want to do it now.

I like going to bed.

Ich mag das Zubettgehen (Prettier version of "Insbettgehen", 100% the same meaning).

Maybe you like to go to bed in this very moment, but that's not what you want to express with this format. What you really want to say is that You like the act of going to bed.


It's not a question of style like "What I think is better." but a question of what you want to express and which part of the sentence you want to give more weight as seen in my explanation of "Zubettgehen".

You should read this article about this Issue. Due you're learning german, I hope it's not to hard to understand.

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