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Morgen beginne ich, lange Spaziergänge zu gehen.

Or

Morgen beginne ich, lange Spaziergänge zu machen.

Which verb is right in this situation? Both makes sense to me.

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5 Answers 5

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Both English and German have collections of "light verbs", meaning verbs which are often used in combinations with certain nouns or phrases to, in effect, form new verbs. (See Wikipedia.) Light verbs in English include "do" ("do harm", "do business), "make" ("make trouble", "make conversation"), "take" ("take care", "take heart"), and "have" ("have fun", "have lunch"). According to my notes, German light verbs include machen (Foto machen, Platz machen), treffen (eine Wahl treffen), nehmen (Abschied nehmen) and treten (in Kontakt treten). (Note, the German cognate of "do", tun, is not a light verb, and there are only a few idioms where it takes on a special meaning.) The most versatile German light verb is machen and one combination is Spaziergang machen - "to go for/on a walk". In general, whenever you see machen in combination with a noun where the literal translation does not make sense, it's probably a light verb combination.

As Hubert Schölnast pointed out in his answer, gehen is not a transitive verb, but neither is "to go". So "Tomorrow I'll start to go long walks" is ungrammatical in English. In English you can "take a walk" or "go for/on a walk", but as far as I know these expressions don't translate directly to German. English and German often do not agree when it comes to such figures of speech.

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  • I think the German "machen" and the English "make" have a similar use in many cases.
    – Paul Frost
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 12:21
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    @Paul Frost - Yes, but not always, e.g. "Take a photo" vs. Ein Foto machen. I don't think there's an easy way to tell when "make" becomes machen or vice versa, but if you're forced to guess then machen for "make" is probably your best bet.
    – RDBury
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 12:54
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What other answers have not pointed out yet is that you can use »gehen« with many activities, it's just they need to be verbs then and not nouns. For example

spazieren gehen

– literally translated it's “to go to walk”, but it means the same thing as »Spaziergänge machen«. In other combinations, like »schwimmen gehen« or even »laufen gehen« it's more »to be on the way to swimming/running« than doing the activity itself (very similar to English, where you “go swimming“, and only once you get in the water you're actually swimming).

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The verb »gehen« is an intransitive verb. It can't have an accusative object, but »Spaziergänge« is an accusative object. So, you can't use the verb »gehen« if you want to describe the result of walking.

But »machen« is a transitive verb. It always must have an accusative object. It is the best choice if you want to describe how you "created" the walk.

All verbs of movement (gehen, fahren, schwimmen, laufen, schlurfen, rennen, traben, ...) are intransitive. In German you can't walk something.


But there is an exception. If the path of you walk has a certain geometric pattern, you can also use a verb of movement to describe the creation of this path:

Egon sah den auffälligen Felsen, von dem aus er gestartet war, und bemerkte erstaunt, dass er offenbar einen Kreis gegangen war.
Egon saw the conspicuous rock from which he had started, and noticed with amazement that he had apparently walked a circle.

But in such a case you always can use a prepositional object instead of the accusative object, which most often is even the better choice:

..., dass er offenbar im Kreis gegangen war.
.. that he had apparently walked in a circle.

But the meaning is different:

  • accusative object (Er ging einen Kreis. He walked a circle.)
    This means, that the circle is a result of the process of walking. The circle was produced by walking.
  • prepositional object (Er ging im Kreis. He walked in a circle.)
    This means, that he followed a circular path (even if the path was not visible before and he followed it unconsciously). So, the circle was there all the time, it was not created by walking.
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  • In Zeile 1 "gehen".
    – Paul Frost
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 12:11
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    @PaulFrost: Genau für solche Fälle findest du unter jeder Frage und unter jeder Antwort einen Link mit dem Namen »Edit« (in der Zeile »Share Edit Delete Flag«). Du darfst und sollst sogar solche Tippfehler ausbessern sobald du sie siehst. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 13:26
  • Mache ich gerne, aber nicht jeder mag das so bei seinen Beiträgen. In Zukunft werde ich bei Deinen Antworten, wenn ich denn mal einen Tippfehler finden sollte, einen Edit machen. Sind bei Dir allerdings sehr selten ;-)
    – Paul Frost
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 13:47
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    Bei inhaltlichen Fehlern sollte man vorsichtig sein, da ist ein Kommentar besser als ein Eingriff. Aber Tippfehler kann (und soll) jeder ausbessern. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 14:04
  • Jeder muss seinen eigenen Weg gehen. Akkusativobjekt.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 11:15
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Commented by @PaulFrost:

In this context only "machen" is correct. The Duden nicely explains the use of machen.

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  • Duden explains why »machen« is correct, but it doesn't explain why »gehen« is wrong. The OP thought »gehen« was correct too, and this answer doesn't address this wrong assumption. Also: Quote from german.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer: »Links to external resources are encouraged, but please add context around the link so your fellow users will have some idea what it is and why it’s there. Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the external resource is unreachable or goes permanently offline.« Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 8:08
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    @HubertSchölnast: feel free to modify, since existence of this answer was triggered by your "comment contains answer" complaint. You surely don't expect enriching as moderator task too? To quote from related meta post "Of course you may extend this answer if needed but even a short answer is better than none."
    – guidot
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 12:48
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The allegation by Hubert Schölnast in his answer that "All verbs of movement (gehen, fahren, schwimmen, laufen, schlurfen, rennen, traben, ...) are intransitive. In German you can't walk something." is wrong.

Ich gehe meinen Weg.
Ich gehe den nächsten Schritt.
Das geht schon zehn Jahre so.
Die Firma ging Pleite.
Ich schwimme 100 m.
Ich fahre die Straße auf und ab.
Ich laufe einen Marathon.
Ich wandere den Heilbronner Weg.

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