Going through the motions

In German there are two main verbs that mean ‘to go': gehen, which is used in expressions about going in general, and particularly going on foot / walking; and fahren, which refers particularly to going/travelling in a form of transport (car, train, bus, boat, etc).

So I could said, “Am Samstag gehe ich nach Berlin” (I’m going to Berlin on Saturday) and this would indicate that I was walking there – which is possible, but would take rather a long time from Bangor. I am actually going to Berlin on Saturday for the Polyglot Gathering – getting the train to Manchester Airport, then flying to Berlin via Amsterdam, and getting the bus into Berlin from the airport – so I could say, “Am Samstag fahre ich nach Berlin” (I’m travelling to Berlin on Saturday).

In Dutch similar verbs exist – gaan and varen – however they are used in different ways. Varen as a verb means ‘to go, to travel, to sail, to navigate, to ride’, and as a noun means sailing. Gaan is the generally word for to go, which also means to travel, to ride and to go on foot (te voet gaan). So in Dutch I could say, “Op zaterdag ga ik naar Berlijn.” (I’m going to Berlin on Saturday), and this wouldn’t necessarily indicate that I was going on foot. If I said, “Ik vaar naar Berlijn.”, that might indicate that I was going there by boat / sailing there – at least that’s how I understand it.

There’s also my favourite Dutch verb lopen (to go, walk, run, march, step, stride, stroll), which seems to be cognate with the German verb laufen (to run, go, walk), and I’m sure there are other verbs of motion in both languages.

Do other languages have separate verbs for different kinds of going?

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This entry was posted in Dutch, English, German, Language, Words and phrases.

6 Responses to Going through the motions

  1. Rauli says:

    Swedish has for going on foot and åka for going in a form of transport.

    The Finnish verb mennä is the general word for going no matter what the method. Kävellä is to walk, matkustaa is to travel. If you said “Lauantaina menen Berliiniin” (I’m going to Berlin on Saturday), no one would assume you’d walk there, even though it could also mean that.

    Then there are the verbs for using specific vehicles: ajaa (drive), pyöräillä (ride a bicycle), purjehtia (sail), soutaa (row a boat), veneillä (use any kind of boat), lentää (fly), hiihtää (ski cross-country), lasketella (ski downhill), luistella (skate), ratsastaa (ride a horse).

  2. David Eger says:

    English has cognates for both the German verbs: to go and to fare. But ‘fare’ is only used as a verb in very limited contexts, e.g. in ‘wayfarer’, ‘farewell’ and, in a figurative sense (i.e. not implying actual physical travel) in expressions such as, “How are you faring?”. The noun fare (i.e. fee paid for travel) is obviously connected, perhaps originally meaning the journey itself (cf. German fahrt). http://www.etymonline.com also suggests a connection with ford and ferry

    Laufen has an English cognate in to lope.

    German also has reisen = ‘to travel’.

    Latvian has two verbs, parallel in meaning to gehen and fahren:
    iet = ‘to go, walk’ – Es (aiz)eju uz skolu.
    braukt = ‘to go, travel’ – Es (aiz)braucu lidz Berlinei.

  3. David Eger says:

    “Swedish has for going on foot and for going in a form of transport.”

    Åka looks like it could be cognate with walk – which is interesting, since it denotes some mode of travel other than walking.

  4. Rauli says:

    According to Wiktionary (åka, walk) they are not related.

    Åka is cognate with the Latin verb agō and the Greek verb ἄγω, both meaning ‘drive’. The Finnish ajaa is believed to be an old loan from the IE languages, so it is cognate as well (Wiktionary).

  5. DA says:

    Wonder how widely used is Going To for the future tense. ” I am going to ..”

  6. Damon says:

    I find that German likes ‘fliegen’ with flying or air travel. As for “I am going to” that’s implied contextually as it would be an obvious statement if you were on the plane, but may be emphasized with a date or time. Additionally you could use a helping verb describing intention, I think ‘wollen’ (intend to) is probably the best candidate here. I suppose if you wanted to, you could use ‘müssen’ for must or have to.

    Ich fliege nach Berlin.

    Ich will nach Berlin fliegen.
    ich muss nach Berlin fliegen.

    Am Dienstag will ich nach Berlin fliegen.