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I don't understand this question:

Wohnst du zur Miete?

I started learning German at Lingoda School (online.) I am a beginner (A1 level), and I have no clue what some phrases mean. I cannot provide the context because I only have a vocabulary list and a one-sentence example.

Edited based on comments': The entire question is unclear to me. I know every word of "Wohnst du zur Miete?", but I don't understand the meaning. Does it mean I live from renting my property? Or does it mean I live in a rental unit?

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    You can ask questions in English if that's easier for you. The policy is to answer questions in the language in which they're asked.
    – RDBury
    Oct 15, 2022 at 2:55
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    @RDBury I thought "die Miete" meant "rent," not "a rental." Oct 15, 2022 at 3:20
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    That being said: What remains unclear after consulting a dictionary? Oct 15, 2022 at 6:59
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    @infinitezero: Consulting a dictionary doesn't help here, because the construction is weird. Having the preposition »zu« that is part of the contraction »zur« in such a context sounds weird to me. I know that this phrase is quite common in some parts of Germany, but zu immediately after a verb still sounds like a movement to me, and this makes no sense for living: Ich fahre zur Tankstelle. Ich gehe zur Kneipe <-> Ich wohne zur Miete. This makes no sense to me. Another meaning is to do something accompanying something else: Ich esse Brot zur Suppe. But this pattern also doesn't fit. Oct 15, 2022 at 9:46
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    @infinitezero: I just wanted to make clear, that even consulting a dictionary might not help to understand the phrase, so it is legitimate to ask about it, i.e. there is no reason to close the question. Oct 15, 2022 at 9:52

2 Answers 2

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This is a phrase that is common only in northern parts of Germany, maybe also in middle parts, but it is not used in the southern parts of the region where German is spoken. You won't hear it in Austria (this is where I live). And I guess that this phrase is also not very common in Bavaria. (I bet there will soon be comments that will help you narrow down the regional spread of this term.)

The main kinds of residing are

  1. in a whole house (mainly in rural regions, but also in suburbs of larger cities)
  2. in an apartment (mainly in urban regions)

Houses are almost always owned by the people who live in them. Either they built the house themselves or they bought it. So they are the owners. It is also possible to rent a house, but this is rare.

Apartments, on the other hand, are often not owned but rented. I only have figures from Austria, and there about 42% of all apartments are rented. This figure is slowly rising, while the proportion of owner-occupied apartments is getting smaller every year. I guess the situation in Germany and Switzerland is similar.

When you want to say that you live in an apartment that is rented, you usually say:

Ich wohne in einer Mietwohnung.
I live in a rented apartment.

Ich habe meine Wohnung gemietet.
I have rented my apartment.

These sentences can be said everywhere where German is spoken. But in northern regions also this phrase is in use, which is colloquial speech and means exactly the same:

Ich wohne zur Miete.

The verbatim English translation is "I live for rent" but when you say that in English, it sounds as strange as the German phrase sounds to me, because I live in a region where that phrase is not used. I even think that »Ich wohne zur Miete« is grammatically incorrect, but for sure there will be people with other opinions.

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  • So, to make sure, "Wohnst du zur Miete?" means the same as these two sentences (Ich wohne in einer Mietwohnung. /Ich habe meine Wohnung gemietet) which mean that I live in a rental unit; I'm not an owner of this apartment. I want to clarify this because "I have rented my apartment" can be read both ways. english.stackexchange.com/questions/74342/… Oct 15, 2022 at 15:41
  • @Codewife_101: Oh, I see. That's because (1) »Ich habe etwas gemietet« and (2) »Ich habe etwas vermietet« both translate to "I have rented something" in English. But (1) means that I pay to use something that I don't own, and (2) means that I own something and earn money for letting others use it. Only the English translation is ambiguous (because of English grammar), the German sentence in my answer is not. Oct 15, 2022 at 16:29
  • The sentence/question looks very valid to me, just like "Gehst Du zur Arbeit?" and "Ich schreibe zur Entspannung." which are constructed the same way. One can easily avoid these, though, with even shorter questions like "Zahlst Du Miete?" because wohnen is irrelevant if only the payment is of interest.
    – AmigoJack
    Oct 17, 2022 at 20:41
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In German, you don't have to use an auxilary as to do for questions. All verbs do the trick. A statement as

Er geht heim. — He goes home.

can be turned into a question by putting the conjugated verb in front. And whatever was in front before goes elsewhere. Subjects default to the position directly behind the conjugated verb if they aren't the topic:

Geht er heim? — Does he go home?


About that part zur Miete, that's a modal adverbial roughly meaning the rent way. There's a lot of modal adverbials of that zu+noun kind and they all function like that, e.g.

zur Verfügung — "the provisioned way" — provided, available

zur Abwechselung — "the alternate way" — for a change

zum Spaß — "the fun way" — for fun

As you can see, English often uses a similar construction with the preposition for instead.

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  • Thank you for your answer. I have difficulty understanding the entire question, even though I know every single word. However, @Hubert Schölnast explained it to me perfectly. Oct 15, 2022 at 15:25
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    @Codewife_101 implied in this answer is "zur Miete" -- "the rental way" -- I'm renting the appartment. Oct 16, 2022 at 10:37

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