1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. "Did you swim to the island?"

"Did you swim to the island?"

Translation:Bist du zu der Insel geschwommen?

March 30, 2013



Why zu der and not zur?


why is "Sie sind zu der Insel geschwommen?" accepted?.... if it is a question, shouldn't it be "sind Sie" instead of "Sie sind"?


I would translate "Sie sind zu der Insel geschwommen?" rather as "You swam to the island?"


Both ways of putting the question are correct and very similar in meaning, but there is a slight bit more of a feeling of astonishment in the "Sie sind...?" version. E.g. if you stress the "Sie" -The question "SIE sind zu der Insel geschwommen?" would translate as "It was YOU who swam to the island?" Unbelievable!"


yes, but if the intention was the emphasis, i believe it could have been shown in the same way in English, i.e. You swam to the island?!


I had the same question. Here is what I found http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa061900a.htm. So if we were swimming to Sicily, we could use "nach", or swimming south, but we are swimming to a generic island, therefore "zu".


If i remember correctly, "nach" is used for countries and places that have no definite destination (like travelling "west").

For places with a definite destination, the preposition depends on the type of destination. Still trying to figure out which are used where.


If I am travelling to visit my friend, I am travelling zu them. I was corrected on this usage yesterday!

Generally, there is an explanation here which seems quite clear. It says that cities, countries and continents use nach when you mention their name, but zu otherwise - so maybe this applies for named islands too? This example with Majorca seems to suggest yes.


Think of nach more as "toward" or "after", rather than "to".

Nach Zu In
Going to a certain city, country or continent (except Antarctica) Used when going anywhere else Used when going into a building or going downtown (or going to Antarctica)


Since this sentence involves movement from one place to another, why is it not "die Insel" (accusative) instead of "der Insel" (dative)?


Got it. "Zu" is a dative preposition.


why is it wrong to use "hast du zu ...." instead of "bist du zu ..." ?


Because this is a movement verb (like rennen/laufen/to run or gehen/to go) and the auxiliar verb to form the Perfekt/past simple is the verb sein. So all or almost all the verbs that involve movement use the verb sein as an auxiliary verb. The only exception I can remember now is the verb tanzen which is form with haben ( Ich habe getanzt = I danced).


I assume that "tanzen" takes "haben" as auxiliary verb because there's no directional movement or end point to reach. I'd say "Ich bin quer durch den Raum getanzt." - "I danced straight through the room."


I think it makes sense what you say. But from what I know I think the rule is really that tanzen is with sein. The official rules are that the intransitive verbs (verbs that cannot take an akkusative object, ex: Ich gehe nach Hause [dative object], you cannot say Ich gehe ein etwas [this would be an akkusative object]) are used with sein. So this includes all the movement verbs + verbs of change of state plus the verbs bleiben sein. The transitive verbs are used with haben.

Note: you can actually use schwimmen also with haben. Er ist zu der Insel geschwommen OR Er hat zehn minuten im eiskalten Fluss geschwommen (=no movement towards a set goal; stationary in a fixed place)


"Ich gehe nach Hause" does not contain an object in that sense. "gehen" needs a destination which is a prepositional phrase here: "nach + place". It is the "nach" that requires dative and not "gehen". "Er hat geschwommen" sounds wrong to me but this may be a dialect thing. There is also variation concerning "sitzen". Some say "Ich bin gesessen" and others "Ich habe gesessen". As far as I know, the goal vs. no goal rule is very pronounced in Dutch.


Think of "haben" as possession or sedentary activities and "sein" as what you are/be doing.

Germans are practical. In English, one may say "I have ran to the store."

"Ich bin in den Laden gelaufen."

You cannot perform the actions of picking up and carrying "running" nor can you run without moving, however it is something you can be doing or what you are doing with movement.

I add the note of movement because you can't walk, run, drive, fly, etc. without going from Point A to Point B.

So sleeping does not require movement, therefore "I slept on the couch." will use "haben".

"Ich habe auf der Couch geschlafen."

BE CAREFUL, if you use a verb that implies movement, like "went" you must use the "sein" form.

"Ich bin schlafen gegangen."


A small nitpick: "I have ran" is incorrect. You can say "I ran" or "I have run".


Hopefully I can remember this. I use the wrong one occasionally, being a native English speaker. The verb usage is confusing at times.


What about auf die Insel?


that would mean "on the island," I believe


Well, auf is a 'two-way preposition', so the meaning changes whether you use it in accusative or dative case.

auf die would be accusative case and would mean "onto the" island, like you actually swam until you reached the beach and could stand up again. zu der doesn't have this meaning exactly, as you could have just swam very close to it and had a look while staying in the water.

auf der would be dative case, and means "on the" island. Like, you went to the resort on the island which has a swimming pool, and you swam there (but not in the sea that surrounds the island).


Good point. Thanks for clarification.


How do you tell when to use "sein" and when to use "haben" in the past tense? (i.e., "Sie haben gekauft" vs. "Sie sind geschwommen")


verbs of movement usually take "sein" (gehen, laufen, rennen, fahren, schwimmen, klettern,...).


Well, apparently only the intransitive forms use sein: like "I drove" or "I travelled". But transitive verbs cannot, so for example when you use fahren to mean "I drove a car" you need haben.

Canoo.net acknowledges this by listing both as possible helping verbs but doesn't make the point clear.

Interestingly, that first link also points out the distinction between using fahren to mean "being the driver" and "being a passenger". When used to be a passenger, you are not "driving the car" but ~"travelling, with the car" and so the verb acts intransitive in that case.


So, if I understood what you were saying about the different uses of "fahren":

-Ich bin im Auto gefahren = I travelled by car (but someone else was driving)

-Ich habe im Auto gefahren = I drove the car

(I'm not sure about the "im" though)


Well, im means "in the" (it's a contraction of in dem), so the first sentence looks fine. The second one shouldn't use in, though, as far as I can tell. You have however interpreted my point correctly.


Ok, that makes sense. Ich habe das Auto gefahren = I drove the car. With das Auto being the direct object of fahren, which is used transitively and thus needs the auxiliary haben. Thank you, have a lingot!


As this statement is a question, why does the sentence start with Sie sind or Du bist, instead of Sind Sie or Bist du?


Check out the discussion above. That's a particular construction used to express astonishment in your question.


why zu der Insel and not nach den Insel?


Previous comments discuss why we need zu rather than nach. Also, Insel is a feminine word and the preposition here requires dative case. The dative feminine definite article is der.


Why is it "der Insel" if this is accusative?


Why do you say it is Akkusativ?

The preposition zu imputes the Dativ. As reference: Wiktionary.


"bist du auf die Insel geschwommen?" says Google Translate, is it not correct?


Why is this "zu der Insel" and not "zu die Insel"? I thought the "wohin" phrases use Akkusativ.


Bist du? Why not hast du?


Is there something unclear about jmgmor's answer to hrudaireddy, who asked the exact same question five years ago?


Nobody here has mentioned "an die Insel". As discussed here https://www.thegermanz.com/zu-nach-in-most-efficient-preposition-german/

I thought 'zu' was too boring, 'auf' implied I swam up the beach and onto the island and 'nach' or 'in' are obviously wrong.

So why not 'an die Insel' being right up to the edge?

This is also a bit like, as discussed elsewhere 'zum Meer' = going to the sea when you're planning a trip but 'ans Meer' if you're in the vicinity already but planning to walk up to the edge if it

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