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Modal Auxiliaries and Double Infinitive

The Genuine, reliable, and cheap Educational Consultancy in Kathmandu that uses advanced learning techniques (super memory, super learning techniques, super learning music, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and visualization) on German language, IELTS and TOEFL preparation class. Genuine Service for all divine students..You have already encountered the modal auxiliaries dürfen, können, mögen, müssen, sollen, and wollen in the present and past tenses. This group of verbs forms a unique conjugation in the perfect and future tenses called a double infinitive.

When the modal auxiliary is the only verb in a sentence, it forms a participle in the perfect tenses. For example, let’s look at two modals, können and wollen.

                                         können                        wollen
present
                           er kann                        er will
past
                                er konnte                     er wollte
present perfect
               er hat gekonnt             er hat gewollt

But when another verb appears in the infinitive form in the sentence, the modal does not become a participle in the perfect tenses. Instead, it appears as an infinitive side-by-side with the other infinitive, thus forming a double infinitive. This structure also occurs in the future tense. Let’s look at können and wollen once again, this time with another infinitive in the sentence. Notice the placement and formation of the double infinitive.

present                    Er kann ihn einfach nicht verstehen.  He simply can’t understand him.
past
                        Er konnte ihn einfach nicht
verstehen. He simply couldn’t understand him.
present perfect
    Er hat ihn einfach nicht verstehen
können. He simply couldn’t understand him.
past perfect
         Er hatte ihn einfach nicht
verstehen können. He simply hadn’t been able to
                                                                                                         understand him.

future
   Er wird ihn einfach nicht
verstehen können.  He simply won’t be able to understand him.

present                  Er will es kaufen.           He wants to buy it.
past
                     Er wollte es kaufen.        He wanted to buy it.
present perfect     
Er hat es kaufen wollen.   He wanted to buy it.

past perfect          Er hatte es kaufen wollen.      He had wanted to buy it.
future
                   Er wird es kaufen wollen.       He’ll want to buy it.

In the perfect tenses, all modal auxiliaries use haben as their auxiliary. Even when the modal auxiliary is accompanied by a verb of motion, which uses sein as its auxiliary, haben remains the auxiliary in the perfect tenses, because the modal is conjugated, not the verb of motion. Compare the following pairs of sentences.

Er hat es gekauft.                                  He bought it.
Er hat es kaufen müssen.                      He had to buy it.
Ich bin nach Hause gegangen.              I went home.
Ich habe nach Hause gehen sollen.       I was supposed to go home.

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Another small group of verbs follow the double-infinitive pattern. They form a double infinitive in the perfect and future tenses just like modal auxiliaries. These verbs are helfen, hören, lassen, and sehen (help, hear, get something done, see). Compare them in the present tense and present perfect tense.

Martin hilft dem Mann arbeiten.                  Martin helps the man work.
Martin hat dem Mann arbeiten helfen.        Martin helped the man work.
Hörst du die Kinder singen?                        Do you hear the children singing?
Hast du die Kinder singen hören?              Did you hear the children singing?
Sie lässt ihren Wagen reparieren.               She gets her car repaired.
Sie hat ihren Wagen reparieren lassen.       She got her car repaired.
Wir sehen sie spielen.                                    We see them playing.
Wir haben sie spielen sehen.                        We saw them playing.

Notice that this group of verbs also uses haben as its auxiliary in the perfect tenses. Also, because helfen is a dative verb, the object in a sentence with helfen is in the dative case. For example: Martin hat dem Mann arbeiten helfen.

As the subject changes in a perfect- or future-tense sentence with a double infinitive, only the
auxiliary is affected. The double infinitive remains constant.

Ich habe mit ihr tanzen wollen.                   I wanted to dance with her.
Du hast mit ihr tanzen wollen.                   You wanted to dance with her.
Er hat mit ihr tanzen wollen.                      He wanted to dance with her.
Wir haben mit ihr tanzen wollen.              We wanted to dance with her.

Ihr habt mit ihr tanzen wollen.                   You wanted to dance with her.
Sie haben mit ihr tanzen wollen.                They wanted to dance with her.

Ich werde ihn vom Bahnhof abholen müssen.   I’ll have to pick him up from the train station.
Du wirst ihn vom Bahnhof abholen müssen.    You’ll have to pick him up from the train station.
Er wird ihn vom Bahnhof abholen müssen.     He’ll have to pick him up from the train station.
Wir werden ihn vom Bahnhof abholen müssen.  We’ll have to pick him up from the train station.
Ihr werdet ihn vom Bahnhof abholen müssen.  You’ll have to pick him up from the train station.
Sie werden ihn vom Bahnhof abholen müssen. They’ll have to pick him up from the train station.

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