Style special – “to walk”

Hi there everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day.
Maaaaan, I do have a really long list of things I feel like I need to discuss.
I have to finish the Time mini series, do a Place mini series and do WOTDs on noch, eben and all those particles like schon, kaum, halt etc… oh the particles. Damn you, you particles for being so divers, making it hard for people to translate you. Anyway… while all of that is pretty important and I am sure you’re eager to read about it, it is also hard hard hard hard hard hard physical work to forge explanations for all of that… hold on. How many hards did I put…1,2,3,4, 5… 5 hards hmm… should have been 6 hards actually… meh whatever. For me it is work to write it and for you it will be a lot to read and understand. So I felt like, we need something a little more light-hearted every once in a while, something that is easy to consume. So today, we will not look at one word in particular. Today we’ll look at a lot of words.

Now you are all like “Lots of woooooords…. hmmmm …. I don’t knooooooow.” But doubt not for fun it shall be; and if you don’t feel like remembering any of that… well then just forget without regret. Think of it as a quick summer flirt with a beautiful other.
So… drumroll…. what we are going to do today is… drumroll getting louder…

Look at the different ways of walking. Tadaaaaah

This is NOT going to be about what the word gehen can mean in German, or which preposition to use, don’t worry… we’ll look at the different ways you can put our feet in front of each other to move forward. SO without any further ado… let’s … Goooooooooooooooooooooooo



Laufen is kind of the default of walking. One could think it is gehen, but gehen has soooo many different context-dependent meanings, that it can’t really be used for the mere movement. So if you’re bein’ asked how you’ll get to the bar you can say:

Apart from that default to walk, laufen has a shit ton of other meanings… of course… so here’s the link to Pons if you want to find out more.
Now,here is the laufen grammar in a nutshell.
The vowel becomes an Umlaut for you and he, the spoken past is built using sein and the ge-form gelaufen and the real past stem is lief.

  • Ich laufe – Ich bin gelaufen – Ich lief.
  • Du läufst.
  • Er/sie/es läuft.

One other meaning however is a walking style. Laufen can also mean running as in jogging.



Together with Fitness and Work out, German also imported the word  jogging and Germanized it, creating the verb joggen, which means to run as in … well jogging. Now what about laufen then? Are the 2 synonymous?  Well … I think it works like this… people who are really serious about it, like… they do it everyday and they have incredible stamina and really expansive shoes and eat a power bar before, they call what they do laufen and if you tell them that they joggen they will be like “Pfff come one, joggen is for all those losers who just circle 2 rounds in some park nearby.”
So joggen is for everyone as an alibi “I need to do something for my body”, but laufen is the real jogging as a sport. But to be serious… it doesn’t really matter :)
Here now an example and the grammar.

The past comes with sein, the ge-form is gejoggt and the real past stem is joggte.



Rennen is the German brother of to run. But rennen is really only to run really fast so it is NOT like jogging at all. Also all the other meanings of to run, like water or business etc.,  are very likely NOT included in rennen, so don’t try. Rennen is to run fast and that’s it.

The past is build with sein, the ge-form is gerannt (pron.: gerunnt) and the real past stem is rannte.
By the way… the German title of Run, Lola run! is Lola rennt… which also makes for a decent plot summary :).



Good god, so much sport right in the beginning… we’re sure in for some relaxation now so schlendern is just the right thing for us. Schlendern is a kind of slow, very relaxed walk with lots of looking here and there, turning your head and your upper body, possibly pointing at stuff so …. maybe we could say it involves slightly more movement of your upper body or your arms than just regular walking … well at least that’s what I think when I visualize the word schlendern… and it sounds like that too I think. Shlann done… sounds loose.
As for a translation… well Leo offers like 10 but most of them are either way to broad or way to uncommon…. maybe to stroll… but I have my doubts. So I’d say just go with the description and whichever fits that in your language… that’s the translation.
Schlendern is what tourists in city centers do… What? Nooo, it does not mean taking pictures and it doesn’t mean suck either. It’s the way the walk.
One crucial thing about schlendern is that it has absolutely NO notion of exhaustion. It’s slow yes, but voluntarily. Now here are examples and grammar.

As you can see ge-form is geschlendert, it comes with sein and the real past stem is schlenderte. And finally the other meanings: none! Moving on… but slowly.



Now, bummeln is not that different to schlendern. It is slow and involves looking around, but maybe maybe it has a little less arm movement than schlendern. A friend suggested that bummeln by default includes going in and out of stores possibly buying stuff, and that kind of makes sense as well… especially when we consider that bummeln is part of the rather often used word Einkaufsbummel. An Einkaufsbummel is kind of a shopping tour… but a very very cozy shopping tour with no stress whatsoever. Another word like this is a Stadtbummel, which is a walk around the city… a very very relaxed walk, stop for a coffee included.
And bummeln has another meaning, which I like a lot… it is to do something slower than necessary or appropriate, mainly in context with going places. This is best captured by the English dawdle.
So suppose you want to go to a museum and your kid just needs ages to get dressed… THAT is bummeln. If on the other hand you have a paper due and you keep procrastinating… that is not really bummeln… that is normal ;).

Grammar-wise bummeln is all regular so the ge-form is gebummelt and the real past stem is bummelte, but as for haben or sein… well that depends. If you use bummeln as the tourist walking around it is sein, if you use bummeln as deliberately do something too slow it is haben.



Schlurfen is another one of those words that for me captures what it is in sound… so please… don’t pronounce it “cool” as “surfan”. That is so nt what it is.  Schlurfen is essentially walking without lifting your feet off the ground. I am not sure as to what is the actual best translation in English (scuffle, shuffle, drag ones feet) but it is not important after all. I think you all know what schlurfen is. Here is an example.

Yeah… it is this slow, low energetic sliding walk. Kids also sometimes do it when their parents make them wander around in museums all day. Then they schlurfen extra noisy so as to express their discontent and mum is likely to say this at some point:

Schlurfen has only this one meaning, the ge-form is geschlurft, the past is built with sein and the real past stem is schlurfte.



Schlurfen is fun at times, and sometimes it even looks cool, but not lifting your feet of the ground has its downsides as you might trip over something… and that is stolpern. And, yet again, I have to say, that at least to me the sound kind of matches what it is. Stolpern is to trip or to stumble and perhaps I should mention that it does not include falling. Here are some examples.

As you can see, stolpern is all regular when it comes to its past forms … so the ge-form is gestolpert and the real past stem is stolperte. Let’s try the du-form of that:

  • Du stolpertest.
  • You stumbled.

Now that DOES sound like stumbling, does it? I hope your tongue won’t. Just like the English to stumble stolpern is also used in the abstract sense of stumble upon something… some information for examples.



Suppose you stolpern over something and you hurt your ankle. Then you will likely humpeln for a few days. English translations are to limp and to hobble. I think the ladder is actually the better fit as humpeln is an uneven, unbalanced walk. Limp does have a subtext of weariness to it that humpeln doesn’t have. Humpeln is a handicapped walk but  it can be quite energetic and it is not necessarily slow. Again the walking style is a bit how the word humpeln itself sounds…bumpy.
Humpeln has only this one meaning, the ge-form is … you guessed it … gehumpelt, it comes with sein and the real past stem is humpelte… if that doesn’t sound funny, I don’t know what does. Here is an example:



Now this is a really nice word. Yeah you word… that’s what you like now, don’t you… bein’ flattered and all, look at you all proud of yourself. Such great a word you are.
Stolzieren really is kind of a remarkable word. It has the word Stolz in it and der Stolz is pride. Stolz has pure Germanic roots and has nothing to do with Latin or ancient Greek, but stolzieren it is so conceited, it put on a fake-Latin ending and pretends to be akin with words like operieren, philosofieren, manifestieren. So it put on this ending and now it is walking around in the dictionary all proud, looking all fancy, giving other Germanic based words an attitude and making them feel stupid. And all that is actually what stolzieren means.
You don’t just walk. You parade… alone that is. Like a peacock. Here is an analogy: If walking is to speak, stolzieren is to pontificate. I don’t want to give a translation here as the dictionaries offered a number of words and each is a bit misleading, I think. But I hope you all get the idea anyway.
And the grammar quickie:

  • Ich bin durch den Saal (hall) stolziert.
  • Ich stolzierte durch den Saal.



This is a very very specific walking style in that you cannot just do it.You will need certain conditions and the best for stapfen is… snow. And now let’s imagine the sound of walking through snow and it does kind of sound like stapfen. So … stapfen is the German verb for this specific kind of walk you have to do in snow that is a some inches thick. The possible English translations again all have side meanings or are more broad than is stapfen. It really is that specific walk and without something to do it in you simply can’t do it. Of course you can stapfen through ash or in desert sang or even through garbage on a land fill but you have to have a layer of stuff with a certain thickness… and around here in Berlin stapfen will be associated with snow.
Anyway… there is a noun with stapfen in it-  Fußstapfen, which translates to footprints. But not a foot print of a wet shoe on concrete… it is this little crater your foot makes. Fußstapfen in German is often used in a more abstract sense as the legacy of someone. It does exist in English, too, but I’ll explain it anyway for all those who are not English natives. Suppose your dad is a really successful lawyer and now you set out to take over the company… then you have a lot to live up to. Your dad has been great, can you be as great as him?



Pshhhhhhh…. quiet. Try to read as silently as possible… good. Schleichen. Yes, schleichen is to walk in a fashion that makes as little noise as possible. How you do that is not important. Maybe you have really cool shoes …like, say … sneakers or you tiptoe or you do every move extremely slowly… what matters is that people don’t hear you.
In a little more broad sense , schleichen is to walk unnoticed. So in a very noisy environment the focus might not be so much about not being heard as about not being seen. This is schleichen too. But schleichen really is a style of walking. So all the meanings of to sneak, that are NOT related to walking won’t be schleichen.
One very nice word in German is die Schleichwerbung. Werbung is advertisment and Schleichwerbung is an ad that is there but you don’t realize it is an ad. The English word is covered ad or plug.
Anyway… you might not have noticed yet but the grammar of schleichen is already here… sooo sneaky…
The ge-form is geschlichen, it works with sein, as all the others and the real past stem is schlich:


No… no way, I will not discuss this word in all its facets now :). I just want to say one thing about gehen… it is the name of that one strange sport, where they all look like English lords who REALLY have to catch a train but they can’t run for it  because that would be not noble enough. The English name of that sport is race-walking and I am sure some of you have no idea what I am talking about right now so here is the Wikipedia.
The main point about this is, that your feet have to look as if they are on the ground the whole time. Walking like that is actually pretty exhausting while it is easy on the bones I reckon, but it just looks sooooo funny.

And this concludes our little walking style overview. On a side note, German does not have a word for to skip… you know… this kind of walk where you jump rather than step and you use your arms a lot and such… it is really hard to describe. And German has no word, not even close. If I needed to talk about on the phone (so I can’t just show it) it would take A WHILE.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little tour and got some images to take home with you. If you have any questions or suggestions or if you just want to give me some feedback (good please), then as usual I will be very happy to read it in the comments. And as a good bye, what song could be a better fit than this one… enjoy.

for members :)

Leave a Reply

newest oldest
Notify of

This post is fantastic. So many ways to express walking/running! Thank you for putting this together.


I’m a new reader of your website/daily digest. I really enjoy your writing/explanations, very informative and entertaining at the same time and unique among the many German-learning sites that I’ve encountered over the past years. Thank you.


This is an excellent post and I learned a lot. I think the word you are looking for with “stolzieren” is to “strut” and for “stapfen would be to “trudge” or “tramp” or “plod” through the snow, though ‘trudge’ is best in my opinion.


I have a question… let’s say that I go into my garden to go and get a frisbee or whatever, and over the last week my dog has laid many, many eggs on the lawn… so I have to be careful where I put my feet… so I lift one leg, find a safe spot, ooh find the next spot and so on… would this be “stapfen”?

I kind see it as the same kind of physical movement, you lift one leg quite high as before you place it, but I’m not sure if it fits OK. I can’t really think of an english translation though… I guess you’d just say that you went across the lawn but had to tip-toe around the eggs. But then that’s not really “schleichen” because I don’t really care about being quiet, just having clean shoes.


This is such a great site – love it!

Daniel Blue
Daniel Blue

I’ve been studying German ten years — teachers, books, the works. Lots of good help. But your site is the best at laying out nuances simply and memorably. Just what I needed. Thanks!


Können wir vielleicht einfach “skippen” sagen? Das scheint mir, wie ein echter Deutscher es machen würde. ;)


Echt cooler Post. :)

Ich finde die Vorschläge von Miles für “stolzieren” und “stapfen” sehr gut, würde aber zwischen “tramp” und “trudge”/”plod” unterscheiden. Aus meiner Sicht entspricht “tramp” der Bewegung vom Stapfen besser als die Anderen, auch wenn “trudge” onomatopöisch am besten passt. “Trudge” betont, dass man nur unter Schwierigkeiten gehen kann, z.B. durch Schnee, Matsch, Sand, hohes Gras, gefallene Blätter, usw. oder wegen Ermüdung. “Plod” ist ähnlich aber kann einfach heißen, dass der laufende schwer (oder faul) ist und deshalb langsam geht.

Gibt es ein spezifisches Wort für “sprint,” d.h. sehr schnell über eine kurze Strecke rennen?

“Amble” finde ich ziemlich gut als Übersetzung für “schlendern.” Vielleicht auch “saunter” oder “mosey” (wo es um Cowboys geht :D ). Für “bummeln” kann man auch (mindestens in den USA) “poke around/along” sagen.


Hello. You are doing a great job. Really.

I have one question, about verb “spazieren”. What is difference between spazieren and bummeln (or schlendern)?

p.s. Is it possible to make something similar to the “Time” miniseries, only for the space. That and “da-words”, “her”, “doch” were so useful that I can not express it enough. Thank you for your effort.


Just reading through this again and making some mental notes, now my German is getting a bit more advanced! By the way, I think the English equivalent for “schlendern” would be “to mooch” as in ” It was raining and there was nothing to do, so we mooched around the town for a while” :- ) Keep up the good work!

Jill “loiter in a bored or listless manner! (loiter’ being another term for walking slowly). ‘INFORMAL: walk or act slowly and without much purpose. “period of time spent walking around slowly and without much purpose: I’m going for a mooch round the shops (= to look at what is there, not to buy a particular thing).


…whereas to an American, “mooch” has zero to do with walking. “To mooch” means to somehow come into possession of a thing you did ‘t really earn, or that isn’t really yours, but you didn’t really steal it either because the person who you got it from would totally have given it to you if they had known about it. You mooch food off your office mate’s desk, for example– to “cadge” might be a good synonym.

A desultory, not-unpleasant day spent wandering aimlessly from one place to another would probably be called “bumming around” in America.


Amazing and entertaining post, congrats!


Love the post as always. Walking has always been a difficult one for me to translate. And you’ve cleared a lot of it for me. But still some sentences i!m not clear on like “I’m just going to take the dog for a walk” Or that classic opening for a joke “a guy walks into a bar”. How to translate these? Also, since I am a new father, how to say “finally she can walk”?


Isn’t ”hüpfen” a good translation for skipping around ??


I wasn’t aware of “race-walking” as a sport, maybe because Americans don’t seem to win very often ( However, that style of ambulation is very recognizable to me as “power walking.”


Your articles are good except for one thing…the swear words. You know, if you leave them out, no one will be offended, and you’ll still get your point across. I was just about to recommend your website to my whole German class until I started coming across the bad language. Are these words really necessary?


Was ist der Unterschied zwischen humpeln und hinken?

Paul McCormack
Paul McCormack

When I was learning German at university (in Australia) I was taught that “Ich gehe spazieren” is the only way to say “I’m going for a walk” or “I walk”, so this article is interesting. I’m sure I was taught a very limited vocabulary!