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While studying the various usages of im in Duden, I came across this usage of im with the following grammatical note:

während eines bestimmten Vorgangs; dabei seiend, etwas zu tun

nicht auflösbar; bildet mit dem substantivierten Infinitiv [und »sein«] die Verlaufsform

The two examples given made good sense to the definition

Dieser Schauspieler ist im Kommen.

Der Junge ist noch im Wachsen.

However, when I looked around in Google for more examples and came across im Freien meaning outdoors, I found out that the verb freien seems to be an outdated usage for "to marry or to court a lady". Have I found a wrong example of the Duden scenario here? The only way I think it could work if "courting" was very tightly linked with being outdoors, a bit like in Bollywood!

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That is a particularly good example of a not well known pun.

im Freien has indeed two different meaning:

  1. outdoors (where one is generally free=frei)
  2. whily marrying/courting with the very explanation you give. But this meaning is extraordinary. Usually, no one would think of this meaning.

So the sentence

Im Freien bin ich glücklich.

Might equally suit a pioneer and Casanova.

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  • Your comment on the pun put a smile on my face since it is very apt to my current situation. When I was "courting" my wife we used to hike a lot. Now with our 2 year old, I no longer have exclusive access to the missus. So indeed "Im Freien bin ich glücklich."! – Satish Vasan Jan 14 '15 at 19:20
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In the expression "im Freien" you have the adjective frei. It has nothing to do with the verb freien or the noun Freier which describe a special relationship between man and woman. Frei (adj) and freien belong to different word families.

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1

Duden is correct: im Fahren (while driving), im Vorbeigehen (in passing), im Fallen (while falling).

Im Freien is just a special case, so Google is also correct; im Freien means outdoors, as opposed to im Haus. See also Leo.

Freien as a Verb (and the matching noun Freier) do refer to courting a woman. Freien is old style, Freier is mostly used for men visiting prostitutes.

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