Ich möchte gern schwimmen gehen.

I noticed this sentence with three verbs during my recent study, I understand "möchte" here is the modal verb, but why "schwimmen" and "gehen" can be in the same sentence? Can I just say "Ich möchte gern schwimmen" to express the same meaning?

2 Answers 2


"I want to swim" vs. "I want to go swimming" -- same thing. The difference is that strictly spoken in the first, you desire the action itself (as in, "I want to swim, not just only lie in the sun", whereas in the second, you want go somewhere and do it ("lets go to the Schwimmbad").

But there's more to it, really. The INF + gehen construction is used in all kinds of situations to express that the action in INF is executed after moving somewhere else. This is strictly a construction, since you can't just use any verb of motion, like *ich laufe schwimmen. It also has a certain future aspect, as you can see in English, where the same construction "going to X" has evolved into a proper future tense.

You can pack all kinds of phrases into it, actually, but note that some of them have quite an informal sound (you wouldn't use them in writing):

  • Ich gehe laufen: "I go jogging"
  • Ich gehe sie holen: "I go and fetch her"
  • Ich gehe ihm helfen: "I go and help him", quite informal
  • Ich gehe etwas kochen: "I go and cook something", somewhat (?) informal

I find it difficult to find a general rule about the formality other than a tendency of complex phrases being more informal. Only infiniteve + gehen is always OK, though.

  • Can you please compare to the English sentences with "go" in continuous tense? There is no difference in German, but for example, I go and fetch her (involves actually going) and I am going to fetch her ("going" is just a reference to future) do mean very different things in English. Is the German version more like the go and fetch or more like am going to fetch?
    – Sassa NF
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 20:29
  • Also, perhaps, the reference to "to go Xing" evolving into a proper future tense, was meant to be "going to X"? (I go swimming - no sense of future, just a sense of routine activity; compared to I am going to swim - a commitment to action)
    – Sassa NF
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 20:33
  • You're right, I messed up the English -- too much inference there. The point is that "to go + verb" has an inherently future aspect to it, as you go, and then do. The German construction does not have the meaning of a real future, but still that connotation -- something like "I'll do that in a moment", but it still definitely involves a change of location as well (although that can not only be walking, but anything -- you can also sloppily "einkaufen gehen" on bike). Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 6:51
  • Every German present can refer to the future; gehen + infinitive behaves like an ordinary present in that regard. Also note habitual ich gehe jedes Wochenende joggen. Furthermore, since neither German nor English allow future under a modal verb, the discussion brought on by @SassaNF is moot: I want to go (modal + go) and I am going to go (future + go) are fine, but I want to be going to go (modal + future + go) is nonsense.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 9:25
  • @DavidVogt I think the answer has been modified, so now the bit that has confused me has been sufficiently clarified. My questions are no longer relevant.
    – Sassa NF
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 12:07
  1. Ich muss fahren können.( I must be able to drive.)
    Note: only haben, sein, können can take this structure.
  2. „Er" wird dort sitzen bleiben. (He will be sitting there for long time). The grammar used is werden is also use to express Vermutung.
  3. Ich habe das Essen gegessen Können.( I was able to eat the food.) grammar used is perfekt with modal verb.
  • 1
    Sorry, there are so many errors in your answer (as well in the English as in the German parts) and parts of it are not understandable at all. And the formatting makes it even worse (no correct enumeration, no paragraphs). Needed to downvote. Please fix the issues or remove this answer...
    – Tode
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 9:08
  • 1
    I tried to salvage it but got lost along the way. Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 10:58

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