I came across this sentence. Let's say there are two hats and someone is asking

Zu welchem Hut passt meine Jacke?

Which hat matches my jacket?

Why do we use zu here?

Normally we use zu to express "to/ at/ for". But here I can't understand the meaning of zu. Even if I omitted zu, the sentence would make sense to me. Then why should I use zu?

  • 5
    "Even if we omit Zu , the satz will make sense" Nope, that would totally defeat the intended meaning. May 25, 2020 at 8:00
  • ok @πάνταῥεῖ , then what is the meaning of zu in this satz
    – Sivakumarj
    May 25, 2020 at 8:18
  • Please notice that in the German sentence, Jacke is the subject. In the English sentence, however, the subject is hat. So zu serves as marker as well (cf. the last paragraph of David Vogt's answer) May 25, 2020 at 10:11
  • 8
    Passen works more like the following construction: "to which hat does my jacket go well?" May 25, 2020 at 10:16
  • 1
    I agree @phipsgabler
    – Sivakumarj
    May 25, 2020 at 12:06

1 Answer 1


In German, what number and type of objects a verb needs has to be learned. There are two relevant meanings of passen here, DWDS 1a and 1b.

The first states that a piece of clothing fits somebody with regard to size and cut. The piece of clothing is the subject, the person is a dative object (which is optional and can be left out).

Seit meiner Diät passen mir (dat.) meine Hosen (subj.) wieder.

The plural of the verb passen shows that meine Hosen and not mir is the subject.

The second meaning of passen states that two things accord well, go together. One thing is the subject, the other a prepositional object introduced by zu. When introducing prepositional objects, prepositions are meaningless. In particular, zu does not have a directional meaning in this case.

Der Hut (subj.) passt nicht zur Jacke (prep. obj.).

Note that this meaning is wider than the first and not limited to pieces of clothing and persons.

Die Verpflichtung des Schweden passt zur Strategie von YouTube.

I don't know whether this is part of the confusion, but note that German word order is free in so far as (almost) any constituent can appear in first position in declarative sentences. This includes prepositional objects.

Zu dieser Jacke passt der Hut nicht.
Zu dieser Strategie passt die Verpflichtung des Schweden.

  • 3
    Also if I interpret it as " to which hat my jacket suits" , it makes sense.. now i got it :)
    – Sivakumarj
    May 25, 2020 at 10:14
  • Did you mean to write "size" rather than "seize"?
    – meriton
    May 26, 2020 at 7:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.