33.17 Constructions with zu + Infinitive and with zum + Infinitive

  a) Man muss ihn zum Laufen bringen.
= They want to get him walking / to walk.
  b) Er hat keine Lust zu laufen.
= He does not feel like walking.
  a) Er hat uns zum Essen eingeladen.
= He has invited us for dinner.
  b) Es gibt nichts zu essen.
= There is nothing to eat.
  a) Zum Schwimmen sind wir nie gekommen.
= We never managed to swim.
  b) Um schnell zu schwimmen, muss man trainieren.
= To swim fast, one has to train hard.
  a) Ich hatte keine Zeit zum Lesen.
= I did not have time to read.
  b) Er hatte keine Zeit, das Buch zu lesen.
= He did not have time to read the book.

In the examples above always show two sentences a) a phrase with zum + infinitivo and a b) a phrase with zu + infinitivo. Are you wondering what exactly is the difference (if there is a difference?) between the two? Well, there is a difference and it is not that hard to find: In the construction zum + infinitive, the infinitive is an object (a substantivation) in the construction zu + infinitive, the infinitive is a verb. You can also see the differenc in writing: When using zum + infinitive, the infinitive has a capital first letter. When using zu + infinitive the infinitive is written in small letters.

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