"Did you swim to the island?"
Translation:Bist du zu der Insel geschwommen?
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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!"
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 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.
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 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."
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).
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.
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