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Infinitive Clauses

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zu sprechen zu helfen zu besprechen zu verhelfen

If the verb has a separable prefix, zu is written together with the infinitive and stands between the prefix and the stem of the verb.  auszusprechen mitzuhelfen

If the infinitive is a modal or other auxiliary, the modal or auxiliary follows the infinitive or participle in the verb phrase and is preceded by zu.

auxiliary as infinitive                         infinitive clause
können arbeiten                                  arbeiten zu können
haben geschlafen                                geschlafen zu haben
sein gefahren                                      gefahren zu sein
werden gebrochen                             gebrochen zu werden

When two clauses have the same subject, it is often possible to change the second clause to an
infinitive clause. For example:

Er hofft, dass er Sie bald wiedersieht.             He hopes that he will see you soon.
Er hofft Sie bald wiederzusehen.                     He hopes to see you soon.

Or the object of a verb can often be changed to an infinitive clause.

Sie vergessen das Erzählen von Ihrem Aufenthalt in Paris.  You’re forgetting telling about your stay in Paris.
Sie vergessen von Ihrem Aufenthalt
in Paris zu erzählen.  You’re forgetting to tell about your stay in Paris.

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Certain words or phrases are signals that an infinitive clause will follow. An infinitive clause can be used after etwas or nichts.

Ich habe etwas zu sagen.                I have something to say.
Es gibt nichts zu essen.                  There’s nothing to eat.

The infinitive phrase occurs even when etwas or nichts is followed by an adjective.

Ich habe etwas Wichtiges zu sagen.            I have something important to say.
Es gibt nichts Gutes zu essen.                     There’s nothing good to eat.

You can also use an infinitive phrase after vorhaben, versprechen, empört sein, glauben, behaupten, and sich freuen, among numerous other verbs or phrases.

Sie hat vor eine Reise nach Berlin zu machen.        She’s planning on a trip to Berlin.

Der Junge verspricht das Schlafzimmer aufzuräumen.   The boy promises to straighten up the
bedroom.

Sie war empört so lange auf Martin warten zu müssen. She was upset to have to wait so long for Martin.

Sie behauptete ein neues Heilmittel erfunden zu haben. She claimed to have discovered a new remedy.
Er freut sich den Rockstar kennen zu lernen.    He’s happy to get to know the rock star.

When a prepositional adverb (damit, darauf) introduces or anticipates an infinitive, the infinitive clause must include zu.

Wir freuen uns darauf ins neue Museum zu gehen. We’re looking forward to going to the new museum.

Ich bin daran interessiert eine Reise nach Moskau zu machen. I’m interested in taking a trip to  Moscow.

Some important infinitive clauses are formed with the prepositions um, ohne, and anstatt. The preposition introduces the clause, and the infinitive goes to the end of the clause preceded by zu.

um . . . zu                       in order to (do something)
ohne . . . zu                    without (doing something)
anstatt . . . zu                 instead of (doing something)

Unlike other infinitive clauses, those that begin with um, ohne, or anstatt are preceded by a
comma.

Er tauchte ins Wasser, um seinen Bruder zu retten. He dove into the water in order to save his brother.

Erik sass am Tisch, ohne seiner Mutter zu helfen. Erik sat at the table without helping
his mother.

Sie blieben im Lokal, anstatt nach Hause zu gehen. They stayed in the tavern instead of
going home.

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