I would like to get an accurate reading of the following sentence (from the book Damals war es Friedrich):

Zu einer grünen Hose und einer roten Weste trug Polykarp eine blaue Zipfelmütze.

I am struggling with the expression etw. zu etw. tragen. Hitherto, my knowledge of zu is that it is translated as for or to, but those translations don’t seem to fit. For this sentence, my initial guess is it is close to with or in addition to, which would result in the following translation of the sentence:

Polykarp wore a blue pointed cap with a green pair of pants and a red vest.

Is my guess correct and if not, what does this expression mean?

  • 1
    Somewhat closer to the original, I would read it as in addition to a pair of green trousers and a red waistcoat Polykarp wore a blue jelly bag cap.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 16:37
  • Okay. With what you responded, I had also considered. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 16:45
  • 1
    Note that this is not a special verb (etw. zu etw. tragen); instead, it is the plain transitive verb tragen and, independently, a special meaning of zu that can be used with other verbs as well: Zum Spinat gab es Kartoffeln.
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:28
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    "Hitherto, my knowledge of zu is that it is translated as for or to, but those translations don’t seem to fit." Look up zu in a dictionary to find its other meanings. E.g., in the DWDS entry for zu, it’s A I 1 d, with lots of examples.
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


Your translation sounds good. The meaning of "zu" is that the cap is going well (or not so well, depending on personal opinion and taste) with trousers and waistcoat.

[…] wore a blue pointed cap [bag cap?] assorted with his green trousers and red waistcoat.

might reflect the meaning in English, and

[…] portait un bonnet pointu bleu assorti à son pantalon vert et son gilet rouge.

is a correct translation in French.

Zu schwarzen Schuhen trägt man schwarze Socken.

Zu dem Hemd kannst Du keine Krawatte tragen.

are two examples, where "zu" indicates a well-fitting combination or the opposite (according to the speaker).

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