What is correct, between

(a) Ich lerne schwimmen.


(b) Ich lerne zu schwimmen.

or both? If both are correct, is there a difference in meaning?

  • Ich bin mir nicht sicher, daher nur als Kommentar: Wenn jmd. ins Wasser fällt, und jmd. ruft ihm zu "Was machst Du jetzt?", dann passt die Antwort "Ich lerne zu schwimmen!". Er will nicht untergehen und das Ergebnis entscheidet sich jetzt gleich. "Ich lerne schwimmen." dagegen kann man auch mit Atemübungen auf einer Gymansitkmatte erklären, während man Ruderbewegungen in die Luft zeichnet. Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 23:22

1 Answer 1


Well, actually both are correct and there is no difference in meaning. You sometimes have a "longer" and a "shorter" form of stating the same thing. However, this also depends on whether you use it in everyday's spoken or written language.

As far as your example goes there could be a difference in grammar.

Ich lerne (das) Schwimmen.

This would mean that you are using the noun "Schwimmen" here (optionally with its article "das"). It would mean exactly the same but you are using the noun form of the verb swim (Substantiviertes Verb).

Ich lerne zu schwimmen.

What you are using here is the Infinitive with "zu" combination. You combine a verb with "zu."

Still, as far as I know, you can also use

Ich lerne schwimmen.

which would be the verb's Infinitive.

Hope that helps.

  • 3
    I would like to add that „ich lerne schwimmen“ die übliche Variante ist.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 8:48
  • 4
    "In German, you sometimes have a longer and a shorter form of stating the same thing"... this is true for ANY language and German is not particularly good about it with all its subtle differences. This sentence should be removed because it has no information and it implies (for a student) that there are always two options (with and without zu) when in reality this "lernen + Inf" is one of a few exceptions to an otherwise quite strict rule
    – Emanuel
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 10:03
  • @CarstenSchultz Dat sentence.
    – user6191
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 9:51

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.