Finding vs searching

"I'm finding language partners" is a very common mistake of English learners, when they actually mean "I'm looking for language partners". And I'm very much interested in finding out, where this mistake comes from.

Are there languages where „finding“ and „searching“ are the same?

In Chinese "to look for" would be 找 (zhao) and "to find" 找到 (zhaodao), so there is still some kind of distinction because 到marks the completion of the searching process.

I found the Tagalog word maghanap that could mean both to search and to find (can someone confirm it?). Is there no distinction between those two actions in Tagalog (or other languages) or is this just a case of bad dictionaries?

Apr 29, 2019 12:51 PM
Comments · 53

Thanks to @Phil and @Su. Ki. for responding to the last question you asked me, Miriam, about studying v. learning Spanish. It makes sense to me that you would choose to say you're learning Spanish. In my personal idiolect, nonetheless, even though I am not studying Italian intently, I don't feel comfortable saying that I'm learning Italian; to me that suggests something is actually sinking in, that something has actually been learned (learnt?). Maybe the most accurate way for me to express that would be to say I'm trying to learn Italian. Am I learning? That would be for an Italian to judge. 

Actually, it just occurred to me that this my issue with using learning to describe my interaction with Italian might be related to Antonio's comment about why you wouldn't use gerund form of encontrar in Spanish. It has something to do with the completion of an act. In my mind, at least.

Edit to add: Can someone please help me understand what was so offensive about this comment that it has motivated 3 people to downvote it in the course of half an hour? Thanks. I hope it isn't too late for me to learn anything.

April 30, 2019
Sorry, Miriam, that I somehow missed that part of your post. I’ll blame it on lack of familiarity with the layout on the new beta site :) BTW, I mentioned that French chercher often just means to attempt, with no reference to “finding” at all — is that sometimes true of German suchen (or only versuchen)?

Thanks for linking to that article, Miriam. I am as surprised as Su.Ki. about “Hausaufgaben machen”, as I actually use “to do homework” as (what I thought was) a clear example of “to do” in English. In English, if anybody creates or “makes” the homework, it’s the teacher — the student does the homework. An employee who does a lot of work is good, one who makes a lot of work usually gets fired.

It seems to me that German “tun” can often be translated into English as “to put” in idiomatic expressions. 

When it comes to nouns, German uses “die Tat” (from tun) to mean “the fact” (Tatsache) or “the deed”. It seems “machen” won’t work, since “die Macht” is from “mögen”, not “machen”.

If I’m not mistaken, a good rule of thumb for “tun” versus “machen” is that, other than fixed expressions, you tend to use “tun” more in the north and “machen” more in the south.

Back to the article — where it says, “The brothers Grimm meant that tun had a wider meaning than machen”, do you think “meant” could be a translation from German “meinten”? “Meant” doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense in English, but “believed” or “stated” might.
April 30, 2019

Phil said:  I think in British English they say “Todd is reading Basket Weaving” (but I’m not sure).

No, not really.  This use of 'read' to refer to a degree subject is formal and outdated.  You'll see it biographies referring back to before the mid-twentieth century, for example, 'Major Snodgrass-Tompkins read classics at Cambridge from 1921 to 1924".   It would sound very odd to use 'read' in this sense nowadays.

In fact, in a British university context in modern English,  the usual verb in conversation is just 'do'.  "What did you do at university?"  "I did geography at Manchester" "I'm going to do law at St Andrews" or "I did basket weaving at Kings then switched to macrame".  

You could use 'study xx at university', but in everyday conversation this seems to be a case of stating the bloomin' obvious: just as a native speaker would most likely say "I had pasta for lunch", rather than "I ate pasta for lunch" ( what else would you do with it??).  Where we can, we use the simplest verb possible.

April 30, 2019
In English, “to learn” means to successfully acquire and assimilate knowledge or skill. It may be deliberate (by studying, etc.) or accidental (you find something out by chance). For example, “Mary overheard a conversation and thus learned of her husband’s infidelity.” Dennis learned to ride a bike (= he is in fact capable of riding a bike now).

“To study” means to examine, investigate, look at, look into, read, etc., with attention, usually in an *attempt* to acquire and assimilate knowledge. Example, Dennis sat on the porch, studying the pattern of veins on the back of his hand.

As far as “studying at university”, Americans don’t usually say “to study at college” — that would be redundant (German “die Wäsche waschen” always used to make me laugh). We usually use the verb “to go to” or “to be in” — “Todd goes to college.” (If we really meant “go”, we’d use the article, and more likely the continuous aspect: “Todd is going to the college”, or we’d say “the campus”.) Or with to be: “Todd is in College” (as opposed to “on campus”). Americans speaking foreign languages often translate this literally, for example “Todd *geht zur Universität” — which I imagine would not be correctly interpreted. To specify the subject he’s specializing in, we say “Todd is majoring in Basket Weaving (or whatever).” I think in British English they say “Todd is reading Basket Weaving” (but I’m not sure).

French, BTW, often uses chercher (to search) simply to mean “to attempt” (anything, not necessarily to find).

By the way, doesn’t Chinese use the same words for seeking and finding, with the difference being communicated by an aspect particle or result complement or something like that?
April 30, 2019

Oh, learning just tefers to the intent? That's interesting. I'm very hesitant to say "I'm studying a language" because it's a false friend with German. In German "to study" means "to study at university level". I studied Japanese and Chinese as one was my major and the other was my minor at university. Other languages I only learnt. Well, that's at least how I would say it in German. And whenever a German learner says in German that they're "studying German", I correct them unless they're majoring in German studies.

April 29, 2019
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Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), French, German
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin)