1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. schwimmen+gehen exercise befo…


schwimmen+gehen exercise before gerunds are covered

Suggestion here for https://www.duolingo.com/comment/379028 where students appear to be confused. Up to this point, there has been one unit on verbs specifically, and you wisely make a point that "ist trinken" is not valid german (thanks for that reminder; it's easy to slip into Denglish) because there is no "progressive" in German like there is in English.

Up to this unit, gerunds have not been covered topically in any unit. In the exercise I link to, it feels as if there is an expectation that students will understand gerunds. This results in a lot of misunderstandings, and the usual attempts by others to explain it. While this sort of community support is nice, it is not effective without the material first being covered. Poor, albeit well-intended, explanations might well lead to long-term confusion and frustration later on.

Again, I appreciate just how hard it has to be to find sensible exercises that help students learn the current concept, and possibly drawing on other concepts they already know. But if you could (pretty please) make even a short, cursory note in the tips and notes for the negatives unit, just for the time being, OR if you can move this exercise further along to when gerunds are covered, it might prevent this problem.

May 26, 2018


  • 1280

It is not a gerund in German because there are no gerunds in German. It’s an idiomatic expression that happens to be translated sometimes as a gerund construction in English. In other words, something you pick up on the go, so to speak.

Ich gehe einkaufen, ich gehe spazieren, ich gehe radfahren, ich gehe arbeiten, ich gehe joggen... ich gehe jetzt mein Zimmer aufräumen.

You definitely would not use the gerund in the translation of “ich gehe spazieren”, but “I go for a walk”. Similarly, you could translate “sie geht schwimmen” also as “she goes for a swim”.


'A gerund is a verb used as a noun, as in "The Taming of the Shrew" or "the running of the bulls." The gerund in German is just the infinitive, capitalized. (Like all nouns.) All gerunds are neuter, and when there’s a plural, it has no added ending or umlaut.' (http://germanforenglishspeakers.com/verbs/present-participles-and-gerunds seems to disagree with you?)

  • 1280

They are imposing an English grammar term on German grammar, which, as I said before, does NOT have gerunds! Da beißt die Maus keinen Faden ab! - as we say in German (that’s the way it is). :)

The proper term in German for the phenomenon decribed in your quote is nominalized infinitive (nominalisierter or substantivierter Infinitiv). Your source just tries to make it easier for English speakers to transfer a known concept from English grammar onto an unknown one in German grammar. And for the case of nominalized infinitives, I would not even protest too loudly if you would use the term gerund to describe them, because in this case, the English gerund and the German nominalized infinitve actually do function in a comparable fashion.

However, this is rather thin ice because the English gerund has many more funtions than that of creating a noun out of a verb. And once you instill the idea in a learner that German uses “the” gerund, you open the doors to a lot of misunderstandings. It is much better to approach each language from its very own grammatical “point of view”.

Your quote correctly states that the nominalized infinitve must be capitalized. However, in your original sentence and my examples, the verbs are not capitalized and therefor are not nominalized infinitives (and no gerunds).

It is just one of the idiomatic characteristics of “gehen” that it can be combined with a specific group of verbs, and it’s best to learn these expressions just as your normal vocabular/idiomatic expressions, particularly since the English translation has to adapt to the each specific expression - go for a walk (go walking) vs. go shopping (go for a shop) - and cannot be used like a fixed formula.

ETA: Here's another example: Ich gehe schlafen. I go sleeping? I go for a sleep? None of these work, we need a third way to translate one and the same German construction: I go to bed!


OK, thank you for that correction. After reading a bit more (outside Duolingo) I see what you are saying. Only the English progressive tense uses what we English speakers were instructed in school as "gerunds."

However, my original point remains. I am not sure what to name these constructions of, say, "gehen"+someverb. My whole point, though, is that they have not been introduced in any unit heretofore.

One can not say, literally, "he is walking," only "he walks." How that is interpreted in English varies according to a set of rules that are not entirely exhaustive. Attempting something like "Er ist gehen" or the like would be incorrect (at least as intended). German does not have a progressive construction.

There are, however, other combinations that are valid, such as the use of modals and auxiliaries. Whatever this might be known as, constructions like "gehen"+"schwimmen" were never formally introduced, so the first time I encountered it in an exercise, I was a bit surprised. Fortunately, I was able to recall from my long-forgotten German instruction of decades ago how to work with this. But other users might construe that ANY sort of combination like this is valid in some context.

And that is my concern. When learning a language, it is important to have concepts like this introduced clearly, not merely foisted on new learners in the hopes they will all magically assimilate it. That is the best way for some learners to become quickly confused and use the language incorrectly. So my concern still stands, even if my wits around terminology are wrong.

I am sorry if I misunderstood your response initially.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.