The double infinitive in German
- 1.What is the double infinitive and how do you form it in German?
- 2.Verbs introducing the double infinitive
- 3.The double infinitive with the past participle
- 4.The double infinitive with Futur I
- 5.The position of the double infinitive in the sentence
- 5.1.Double infinitive in the main clause
- 5.2.Double infinitive in the subordinate clause
What is the double infinitive and how do you form it in German?
When in German you find two infinitive verbs in the same sentence, the sentence contains of a double infinitive.
The double infinity is used with certain verbs, especially with modal verbs, when these are conjugated to compound times (Perfekt, Plusquamperfekt) or to Futur I. Let's see in the following chapters how you should use the double infinitive in different situations.
Verbs introducing the double infinitive
The double infinitive is used in combination with the following verbs. Keep in mind, that when there are three verbs in the sentence, only one of them is conjugated.
With modal verbs:
With verbs that do not hold the infinitive with zu:
With other verbs such as:
With verbs of motion (which don't hold an infinitive with 'zu'):
The double infinitive with the past participle
The verbs you can find in the table above, can be used alone or in a verb group. But with the past participle, we always use the double infinitive.
The double infinitive is therefore always used with a past form of a modal verb. See some examples in the table below:
|Verb||Example with double infinitive||Example without double infinitive||Translation|
|müssen||Ich habe den Wagen reparieren müssen.||Ich musste den Wagen reparieren.||I had to fix the car.|
|wollen||Wir haben ihr helfen wollen.||Wir wollten ihr helfen.||We had wanted to help her - We wanted to help her.|
|können||Ich habe ihn nicht treffen können.||Ich konnte ihn nicht treffen.||I couldn't meet him.|
|sehen||Wir haben ihn fallen sehen.||Wir sahen ihn fallen.||We had seen him falling. - We saw him falling.|
|lassen||Du hast dir die Haare schneiden lassen.||Du ließt dir die Haare schneiden.||You got your hair cut.|
The double infinitive with Futur I
It is the same thing, when we use the Futur I. With the simple Futur I you have to use the double infinitive at the end. In the table below, you will have some examples.
|Die Frau wird ihren Mann schnarchen hören.||The women will hear her husband snore.|
|Er wird nicht spielen können.||He won't be able to play.|
|Ihr werdet etwas kaufen müssen.||You will have to buy something.|
The position of the double infinitive in the sentence
Since the position of the verbs change, according to whether they are in the main or in the subordinate clause, we will have a look at both cases in the following chapters.
Double infinitive in the main clause
In the main sentence, the double infinity is at the end of the sentence, while the auxiliary is always in second position (not necessarily after the subject).
|Wir haben das Auftragsformular ausfüllen müssen.||We had to fill in the order sheet.|
|Gestern haben wir das Kind weinen hören.||Yesterday, we heard the child crying.|
|Wir werden Lena den Schlüssel suchen helfen.||We will help Lena to find her key.|
Double infinitive in the subordinate clause
In the secondary (subordinate) sentence the double infinity is always placed at the end of the sentence, while the conjugated auxiliary is in front of the double infinity (at the third last place).
Be careful: Usually the conjugated auxiliary in subordinates is in the last position. In this type of proposition it is in the third last place.
|Sie behaupten, dass sie es nicht haben machen können.||They claim, that they couldn't have done it.|
|Wir wissen nicht, ob er in die Schweiz hat fahren müssen.||We don't know, if we had to go to Swiss.|
|Er hat gesagt, dass er das Kind nicht hat weinen hören.||He said, that he did not hear the child crying.|
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