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To signify „as a warning” , both the terms “zur Warnung” and “als Warnung” seem to appear quite frequently:

Duden: Glocke, die zur Warnung geläutet wird

DWDS: Jerusalems Konzept der Roten Linie wurde im Oktober 1975 entwickelt - als Warnung an Damaskus vor einem zu massiven Eingreifen im Libanon.

Is my assumption that both mean “as a warning” correct and what are the differences in usage?

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Yes, you are correct, both mean "as a warning". I think both terms are used in slightly different contexts:

  • zur Warnung
    It's often used for something that is used to inform people about a possible threat (a bell, a sign...)

  • als Warnung
    Something is done to threaten someone or is used as a deterrent. You do something to demonstrate of what you are capable of.

However, I think it's usually still not totally wrong to use the respective other one in the context. These are only nuances.

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  • The distinction between an established signal ("zur Warnung") and a threatening act ("als Warnung") may be blurry - is the head of a dead horse in your bed the former or the latter? – Hagen von Eitzen Apr 10 at 18:23

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