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In this question, a difference between spazieren and spazieren gehen was discussed. The top answer was, that the difference is slight, the same as walk vs taking a walk in English.

My question is: how widely this is not the case?

In this comment section at Duolingo user Zchbaniel25 (who appears to be a native speaker of German) makes a following comment:

"spazieren" on the other hand can mean you are walking in a silly and affected manner, and it is usually used in a situation which appears humorous in some way or other.

So "Ich spaziere mit meinem Vater" is nonsense. It has to be "Ich gehe mit meinem Vater spazieren."

You will meet "spazieren" in sentences like: "Der Pfau spazierte auf dem Dach herum" - It is a sight that makes you smile.

I don't see this definition on Wiktionary nor on Duden. The only explanation here is that's a regional thing - so where exactly this happens and how likely it is going to become a national meaning?

  • "spazieren" can describe walking around leisurely and without an obvious destination with ostentation. Imagine one person is in a hurry, and a second person is wandering about here and there, with seemingly all the time in the world. It's probably easy to see the potential for humor. With regard to the peacock example, "spazieren" can also be used mockingly: "The peacock can wander about on the roof without a care in the world, and the cat on the ground can do exactly nothing about it." – Henning Kockerbeck Sep 1 at 9:16
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I think that comment you cite is just wrong in the claim

"spazieren" on the other hand can mean you are walking in a silly and affected manner, and it is usually used in a situation which appears humorous in some way or other.

The example with the peacock makes me believe that it probably mixes up spazieren with stolzieren (to flounce, to strut).

Still, the comment is right in saying that Ich spaziere mit meinem Vater does not sound idiomatic, and rather would be expressed as Ich gehe mit meinem Vater spazieren.

But this is due to a different reason: spazieren gehen is denoting the way of walking idly, while simple spazieren seems to (implicitly) ask for a concret location. So: Ich spaziere mit meinem Vater die Strandpromenade entlang. is totally fine and idiomatic. I think, if a specification of where you walk is missing, this is indicating that it is rather idling behaviour and hence spazieren gehen sounds more idiomatic.

The comment you cite is giving the same explanation for why Ich spaziere mit meinem Vater does not sound idiomatic:

"spazieren gehen" means to go for a walk for pleasure, it means you are not in a hurry, and you are probably enjoying the landscape or the fresh air or just the movement as such. It is often a usable translation for "to walk" - when you are not walking to a definite place but just doing your customary walking.

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    Are you sure that his claim cannot be a regional difference? Maybe somewhere stolzieren and spazieren became synonymous? – mzg147 Aug 30 at 12:09
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    @mzg147 This can never be completely ruled out, but I agree with Jonathan here, it's unlikely. The example of the peacock is easy to rid of it's ridicule by swapping the subject: Das Kind spazierte auf dem Dach herum, is perfectly fine as a sentence, but for most this will cause fright, not humor. It also gets a different meaning due to the herum (so it's herumspazieren, instead of spazieren) – dualed Aug 30 at 12:52
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    I disagree. I do think spazieren has a different flavor to it that is rather widely used (or so I experienced) to express any form of absurdity or strange mannerism of any walking thing in a description of a situation; albeit, for this usage it usually comes in combination with herum, herein, heraus, herüber etc. - even your example @dualed can easily be said to (humorously) describe that rather absurd situation. It can be a tool for telling a catchy/funny story I'd say. – ThingumaBob Aug 30 at 15:29
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    @ThingumaBob the humour in those examples comes however from the absurdity of the situation, i.e. you don't walk around on a rooftop for fun, there is not enough space to actually enjoy yourself on a walk and it's dangerous etc. Same examples work with "wandern". It's a rhetoric sentence that builds up humour by the way the situation is described, but aside from a relaxed walking spatzieren does not imply any especially funny walking style, it's the situation that makes it "funny". – Frank Hopkins Sep 1 at 3:13
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    @ThingumaBob the question however is whether the word itself has a humorous connotation, which it doesn't. – dualed Sep 1 at 10:18
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In your example with the peacock (Pfau) one would rather use stolzieren - this is the word that has the meaning of "walking in a silly and affected manner" like you asked for.

A word somewhat in between would be flanieren - something like taking a walk just for fun or for (window) shopping that has an additional purpose of being seen.

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The question illustrates three separate German verbs that are easily confusable, and have closely related meanings: the two phrasal verbs herumspazieren and spazieren gehen, and the simple verb spazieren.

  • According to Duden herumspazieren is colloquial, and means 'to amble here and there without a clear aim' ("hierhin und dorthin spazieren").
  • Spazieren gehen is not considered to be colloquial, and simply means 'to go for a walk' ("einen Spaziergang machen").
  • For spazieren, Duden distinguishes two meanings. The first is basically synonymous to herumspazieren ("gemächlich [ohne bestimmtes Ziel] gehen; schlendern"), the second one is a synonym of spazieren gehen. The latter meaning is marked as outdated ("veraltend").

Note that the degree to which they are interchangable is very gradual. I suspect that speakers will generally find ich gehe mit meinem Vater spazieren fully acceptable, but fewer may like ich spaziere mit meinem Vater herum, and ich spaziere mit meinem Vater may be rejected by quite a few. Yet, if you add an adverbial, I think their acceptability is greatly improved:

Ich gehe mit meinem Vater im Park spazieren.

Ich spaziere mit meinem Vater im Park herum.

Ich spaziere mit meinem Vater im Park.

At least to me, all three are fully acceptable. If pressed to define the meaning difference between them, I'd agree that the first is more directed (perhaps even following a marked route), whereas the other two have a much more spontaneous ring to them.

As to the regional differences, I think that the simple verb spazieren may be more frequent in southern varieties of German, whereas northern German varieties may have a preference for the phrasal variants.

Some support for this hypothesis comes from Google queries: Out of the ~39400 hits for the query string "spazierte *" site:at, ~3250 hits also match the query string "spazierte * herum" site:at. This means that less than every tenth occurrence of spazierte (about 8 percent) is followed by herum if the search is restricted to websites that are associated with the Austrian .at top-level domain.

If the same searches are conducted for the .de top-level domain, which is associated with Germany, the proportion is very different: out of the ~167000 hits for "spazierte *" site:de, ~67200 also match "spazierte * herum" site:de, i.e. about 38 percent. In other words, the probability that spazierte occurs together with a following herum is more than four times as high for .de domains than for .at domains.

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I am a German (and my English is bad) but I like to read about the German language in English ;)

So in my opinion "spazieren" is a bit like "einkaufen" (shopping). Most Germans use it in combination with "gehen". Standalone it sounds not good. i.E:

"Ich gehe einkaufen."

"Ich gehe spazieren."

"Ich gehe mit meinem Vater einkaufen."

"Ich gehe mit meinem Vater spazieren."

"Was machst du gerade? - Ich gehe einkaufen"

"Was machst du gerade? - Ich gehe spazieren"

But:

"Was machst du gerade? - Ich kaufe ein."

"Was machst du gerade? - Ich spaziere." <-- This sound strange. There is missing something. I can't remember anybody say this. Better is "Ich gehe spazieren."

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