I want to translate the german word "Motiv" (with the meaning "Beweggrund") to English.

A sentence in english would be

People have various ... to do sport

What would be the most appropriate translation? I vary between "motive" and reason".

  • 2
    Motive/purpose/reason can all be used.
    – satnam
    Apr 26, 2017 at 8:56
  • If you can tell us more about how you want to use the word, you might be able to make it on-topic. Specifically, you need to translate your sentence into English, leaving a blank where you want the translation of Motiv to go, and explain (using as many words as you want) the meaning and connotations you want the English word to have.
    – 1006a
    Apr 26, 2017 at 9:21
  • Gary is of course correct, but in response to OP I'd note that "motive" often has a connotation of murder, and is thus a better match than reason for this context. Apr 26, 2017 at 9:23
  • 1
    I think your question is much improved now you have added an example sentence, it's easier for non German speakers to provide a suggestion.
    – Gary
    Apr 26, 2017 at 9:39
  • 1
    @Spagirl, true - but before OP edited it, the example sentence was something about the reason for murdering someone (at least I think so - my German isn't amazing...) Apr 26, 2017 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


The way you have constructed your sentence you would use the plural forms, motives or reasons.

Regarding which of the two words to use, they are almost synonymous here:

For example, here is how Oxford define the two words:


  1. A cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.


  1. A reason for doing something.

In this case you are explaining what causes people to play sport, so reason works fine, and so does motive.

I say almost synonymous because there is a subtle difference, inanimate things can't have motives.

A motive force is motivating. Inanimate objects can't be motivated, only people can. If you are focusing on these sports persons lives in your writing motive may work better, because it has a connection to why people act the way they do.

Reason on the other hand is somewhat more sterile:

The reason your computer stopped working was because someone turned it off.

You can't use motive in a similar way with inanimate objects.

In summary both words work just fine, but if you want to add the idea of psychology - why people (especially), are acting they way they are, then motives would be a better fit I would say:

People have various motives to do sport.

You could actually also use the word motivated, with reasons if you wanted to touch on this idea of why people behave the way they do, and then want to go on to talk about the reasons: -

e.g.: People are motivated to do sport for various reasons

I would make one more change to your sentence though, and replace do, with play, as people 'play sport' and this reads more naturally than 'do sport':

So I would settle on either:

People have various motives to play sport


People are motivated to play sport for various reasons

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