German V Tutorial: Basic Phrases, Vocabulary and Grammar

Zu with Infinitives in German

     

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Zu with Infinitives

Infinitives are usually preceded by zu (except when modals are used) when they act as complements of verbs, adjectives or nouns.  Zu + infinitive is always the last element in a sentence. If a separable prefix is used in the infinitive, the zu is inserted between the prefix and the stem.

Hast du Lust, den Dom zu besichtigen?  Do you feel like visiting the cathedral?
Es dauert lange, durch die Stadt zu fahren.  It takes a long time to drive through the city.
Es ist zu früh um aufzustehen.  It is too early to get up.

Um, ohne and anstatt can be used with zu as well.  They introduce infinitival clauses.  Um.. zu is used to indicate purpose, while ohne...zu and anstatt...zu are used with infinitives, and translated as present participles in English.  (Um...zu must be used instead of just zu when the English equivalent "in order to" can be used sensibly.)

Er kam, um das Buch abzuholen.  He came in order to pick up the book.
Sie sagte es, ohne mich anzusehen.  She said it, without looking at me.
Statt hier zu sitzen, sollten wir ihn suchen.  Instead of sitting here, we should look for him.

Sein + zu + an infinitive is used the same way in English and German, but the construction is far more common in German.

Das ist nicht zu machen.  That can't be done.
Das ist in jedem Laden zu finden.  That can be found in any store.

The verbs brauchen (to need) and scheinen (to seem, appear) are often used with zu + an infinitive. Brauchen in the negative is usually translated as to not have to, and is the opposite of müssen.

Es scheint kaputt zu sein. It seems to be broken.
Ich brauche heute nicht zu arbeiten. I don't have to work today.

 




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