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What's the difference between damit, um...zu, zum, zu?

To be completely honest, I never fully understand the difference between "to" and "in order to" in English.
I came across this website that helped me a little bit: http://deutsch.info/en/grammar/um_zu

They basically say that if the subject is the same in both sentences, then I should use um...zu, if not, I should damit. They don't say much about zum and zu though. I came up with a few examples (with my broken German) and I hope you guys can help me to figure it out.

  1. Ich schlafe, um gesund zu sein
  2. Ich schlafe zu gesund sein
  3. Ich schlafe, damit mein Frau fröhlich ist (because I'm not moody :)

I know that "um...zu" normally doesn't go with modals, so how do I structure this phrase?

I'm practicing writing and speaking because I would like to become fluent. I praktiziere schreiben und sprechen, um ich fließend zu möchte werden


August 7, 2017



The difference is that "damit", when used as a conjunction word, means "so that". "Um..zu" means "in order to", and "zu" means "to".

DAMIT - I write in English so that more people can understand me = Ich schreibe auf Englisch, damit mehr Menschen mich verstehen können

Um..zu - I eat fruit in order to stay healthy (bear in mind that most English speakers are more likely to say "I eat fruit to stay healthy" here) = Ich esse Obst, um gesund zu bleiben

Zu - I was afraid to tell her the truth = Ich hatte Angst, ihr die Wahrheit zu sagen


Clear explanation, I like it. Thank you, that really helped me!


You're welcome.


1 is fine, 3 is nearly correct (meine Frau needs the feminine -e ending on meine). 2 is not possible.

And your last sentence would be better as Ich übe Schreiben und Sprechen, weil ich flüssiger werden möchte or ..., um flüssiger zu werden.

praktizieren is "practice" more in the sense of "practice what you preach" or "my brother is a doctor and he practices in Boston".

To practice in the sense of "do something in order go get better at it" is üben or, especially in a physical context, trainieren.


That makes sense. Thanks!!


The um zu construction can be very easily and is very often paired with modal verbs. It's a bit of an advanced construction but nontheless totally normal for everyday conversation. Ex:

Ich schlafe, um besser mit meinem Tag umgehen zu können. I sleep in order to be able handle my day better

The rules regarding zum and verbs are more ambiguous, however in this case essentially function like this: Whenever you have a noun-ified verb, a noun that corresponds to a verb, you use zum to attribute an actual verb to that noun. It expresses the thing to which you dedicate the action. Ex:

zum Frühstück aß ich 2 Äpfel und ein Stück Brot. For breakfast I ate 2 apples and a piece of toast.

Er hat die Tür zum Vorsicht abgeschlossen. He locked the door to be careful.

Frühstück and Vorsicht are derivatives of the verbs frühstücken and vorsichtig sein respectfully. The second one is bit weirder and vaguer but illustrates the concept.

Also, in my experience living in Germany it's much better to say:

Ich übe Schreiben und Sprechen, um fließender Deutsch zu können

U don't typically say that u are fluent but rather that you can speak it fluently.


That explanation of noun-ified verbs was very clear. Thanks! Have a lingot!

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