Uses of the Infinitive

Complement of Modal Verbs

The infinitive is used as a complement of modal verbs. In such constructions, the infinitive is placed at the end of the sentence, in both normal and inverted clause.

Ich muss morgen kommen. - I have to come tomorrow.

Morgen darf ich nicht kommen. - I am not allowed to come tomorrow.


Verbs can be used as nouns in German in much the same way gerunds (verb + ing) are used in English. In German, gerunds are formed by talking the infinitive form of a verb and capitalizing it. All such nouns derived from verbs are neuter and singular.

Das Laufen gibt mir eine Menge Energie. - Running gives me a lot of energy.

The English gerund is often rendered by an infinitive. The preposition governing an English gerund is not always required in German.

Sie haben die Chance, die Welt zu retten. - You have a chance to save the world.

When the German construction requires a preposition, this preposition is put in the governing clause and preceded by da(r).

an etw. (dat.) Vergnügen haben - to take pleasure in smth.

Sie hat ein Vergnügen daran, Horrorfilme anzusehen. - She takes pleasure in seeing horror films.

in etw. (dat.) bestehen - to consist in smth.

Das Glück besteht darin, Kinder zu gebären und keinen Mangel zu leiden. - Happiness consists in baring children and having a prosperous home.

A gerund preceded in English by a noun in the possessive, or by a possessive adjective, must be rendered in German by a dass-clause.

Ich habe nichts dagegen, dass Sie Deutschland verlassen. - I have no objections to your leaving Germany.

Wir verlassen uns darauf, dass Sie es im kommenden Jahr besser machen. - We are relying on your making it better this coming year.

Substantival Infinitives

Infinitives (with or without prepositions) often stand as subjects of a verb. They are often used with zu, which must be used when es precedes the principal verb.

Gute Freunde zu haben ist besser, als reich sein. - To have good friends is better than being rich.

Es ist angenehm, unter dem Baum zu schlafen. - It is pleasant to sleep under the tree.

Es ist gut, Sie zu sehen. - It is good to see you.

Other Constructions

Zum + infinitive translates for + verb + ing

Zum Bücherschreiben braucht man Konzentration und Ruhe. - For writing books, you need concentrations and peace.

Grammar Patterns

Listening Comprehension