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Infinitive clause in German

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What is a infinitive clause?

As the name suggests, an infinitive clause always contains a verb in its infinitive form, which is the not-conjugated form of the verb. The infinitive can be accompanied with or without the word "zu", which is the German equivalent for "to".

Infinitiv without 'zu'Sie kann die Prüfung schaffen.She can pass the test
Infinitiv with 'zu' Sie hofft, die Prüfung zu schaffen.She hopes to pass the test

enlightenedFor building the infinitive clause you always need the the infinitive form with "zu"!

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Infinitive clause with 'zu'

These clauses are without a subject. The subject is in the main clause, which stands before the infinitive clause. Infinitive clauses refer to the person or thing of the main clause! 

Building infinitive clauses

As mentioned above, you always need zu + infinitive of the verb to build and infinitive clause. In German this combination will always be at the end of the infinitive clause, in English this is not the case.

  • Ich plane (=main clause), nächsten Sommer nach Italien zu fahren (=infinitive clause). (I plan, to go to Italy next summer)

If the verb in the infinitive clause is a separable verb, then the "zu" will stand between the two parts of the verb.

  • Er beginnt immer zu spät (=main clause), sich auf die Prüfung vorzubereiten (=infinitive clause). (He always begin late to prepare himself for the test)

When to use the infinitive clause?

After certain words you follow up with "zu" + infinitive. The following table provides you with the most important of these words.

Verbs that initiate an infinitive clause

InfinitiveTranslationMain clauseInfinitive clauseTranslation of the sentence
anbietenTo offerSie hat uns angeboten,bei dem Umzug zu helfen.She offered to help us moving
anfangenTo startMorgen fängt es an,zu schneien. Tomorrow it will start to snow
aufhörenTo stopHör bitte auf,zu schreien. Please stop to scream
beginnenTo beginIch beginne jetzt schon,mich auf die Klausur vorzubereiten.I already begin to prepare myself for the exam
sich bemühenTo tryEr bemüht sich,eine neue Wohnung zu finden. He's trying to find a new apartment
bittenTo askIch bitte dich,die Tür zu schließen. I ask you to close the door
denken anTo rememberDenk daran,die Wäsche aufzuhängen. Remember to hang up the laundry
erlaubenTo allowMeine Eltern erlauben mir,im Sommer nach Spanien zu fliegen.My parents allow me to fly to spain in the summer
glaubenTo think / To believeWarum glaubt er,eines Tages berühmt zu sein. Why does he think to be famous one day?
hoffen aufTo hopeSie hofft immer noch darauf,entdeckt zu werden.They still hope to be discovered
verbietenTo forbidIhr Vater verbietet ihr,abends auszugehen.He father forbids her to go out in the evening
vergessenTo forgetSie hat vergessen,mir zum Geburtstag zu gratulieren. She forgot to congratulate me to my birthday
versuchenTo tryDu kannst versuchen,auf den Baum zu klettern.You can try to climb up the tree
warnen vorTo warnIch habe dich davor gewarnt,mit dem Motorrad zu fahren.I warned you to drive with the motorcycle

enlightenedIn German the infinitive always stands at the end of the sentence

Adjectives and participles that initiate an infinitive clause

InfinitiveTranslationmain clauseInfinitive clauseTranslation of the sentence
bereit sein zuTo be preparedIch bin dazu bereit,die Prüfung zu schreiben.I am prepared to write the exam
entschlossen seinTo be determinedWir sind entschlossen,nach Italien zu fahren.We are determined to go to Italy
erlaubt seinTo be allowedEs ist erlaubt,Fragen zu stellen.He is allowed to ask questions
falsch seinTo be wrongEs war falsch,nicht die Wahrheit zu sagen.It was wrong not to say the truth
gesund seinTo be healthyEs ist nicht gesund,jeden Tag Eis zu essen.It is not healthy to drink a cup of coffee each morning
gewohnt seinTo be used toIch bin es gewohnt,jeden Morgen eine Tasse Kaffee zu trinken.I am used to drink a cup of coffee each morning
leicht seinTo be easyEs ist leichteinfach aufzugeben.It is easy to just give up
richtig seinTo be rightEs ist richtigseine Meinung zu sagen.It is right to say your opinion
verboten seinTo be forbiddenEs war verboten,am Gelände zu essen.It was forbidden to eat at the rail

Nouns that initiate a infinitive clause

InfinitiveTranslationMain clauseInfinitive clauseTranslation of the sentence
die Absicht habenTo have the intentionWir haben die Absicht,nach Rom zu fahren.We have the intention to go to rome
Angst haben (vor)To have the fear Sie hat Angst,die Wahrheit zu sagen.She has fear to say the truth
eine Freude seinTo be a joyEs ist eine Freude,dich zu sehen.It is a joy to see you again
Problem habenTo have the problemEr hat das Problem,niemanden zu kennen. He has the problem to know nobody
(keine) Zeit haben(Not) having timeIch habe keine Zeit,dir zuzuhören.I have no time to listen to you

yes Prove your knowledge now with the following free exercise!


  1. Exercise: Complete the infinitive clause

Exercise: Complete the infinitive clause

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