Translation:The students are studying in the corner.
But does the use of "zitten" imply the students are, in fact, sitting, while they study? If so, it sounds like there isn't a literal translation in English, but "the students are sitting in the corner to study" would encompass all the information in the Dutch statement, and would therefore be a fair translation.
If "zitten" has nothing to do with how the kids are studying, why is it used?
"Zitten" is used as a general statement to make the sentence sound smoother and better in Dutch
It basically is interchangeable with other words depending on the context. For example: Zij zitten te spelen. It would literally translate to: They are sitting playing. In English the sentence doesn't run well with "sitting" in it so you can just take it away. In Dutch you could say: Zij spelen, which is translated to: They are playing. But to give the sentence more flavour so to say, we use "zitten" wether they are sitting or not.
In the sentence you are asking about, it could indeed imply they are sitting to study but is irrelevant to what they are doing since "Zitten te" is used to make the sentence sound better in Dutch. I think that is the hard part of learning Dutch because if you included "Sitting" in the English sentence it would mean they are sitting whereas in Dutch it could mean that but there is no emphasizes on it.
I hope this was a little bit understandable since I am not a teacher. Feel free to ask if there is something still unclear to you.
Dear friend, thanks for your introduction, however there is still something bothers me:
While I know Dutch people also say, de studenten liggen/staan te studeren in de hoek. I guess these three words including zitten, can all add flavor or make the sentence smooth. Then how to choose between them? Shall we include the actual status of the students who are studying?
In other words, can you tell me how often should I comprehend this kind of sentences literally as "somebody is sitting/standing/lying doing something" and how often should I neglect the flavor-verbs?
Thanks a lot for your help in advance :)
It seems to me (a native English speaker) that many Dutch sentences in the form "(subject) (some verb) te (infinitive verb)" can be translated into English by translating (some verb) into "is" or "are", almost without regard to what (some verb) is, as long as it indicates some body position such as "zit", "sta", "lig", and so on. Is that a fairly accurate assumption?
I was also under the impression that verbs like zitten+te is just a dutch way of writing continuous present. I'd like to get confirmation though. edit : But as I'm writing this, I now wonder what the difference would be between "De studenten zitten te studeren" and "De studenten zijn aan het studeren" ?
I think I get the point of these sitting/standing/lying verbs that don't need to be translated into English... but still, wouldn't "The students are sitting and studying in the corner." be a correct translation? It's not accepted, but I think it should be. I reported it, in any case.
To start, both sentences miss zijn. Zijn + aan het + infinitive
- De studenten in de hoek zijn aan het studeren - The students in the corner are studying
The second example uses a very awkward construction, maybe suitable for a poetic expression though not something you would use otherwise. And still you need zijn. - In de hoek zijn de studenten aan het studeren.