German Grammar Explained /

Infinitive sentences

Perhaps you have noticed already that when we refer to a verb in English, we add 'to' in front of it, while in German we don't that.
to play - spielen
Well, not until now!
There is a construction where you will need the German equivalent of 'to'. ⇒ zu
Ich freue mich, dich zu sehen.
I'm happy to see you.
Es ist verboten, hier zu rauchen.
It is forbidden to smoke here.
Hast du am Samstag Zeit, vorbei zu kommen?
Do you have time to drop by on Saturday?
Ich möchte nach Hause zu gehen.
I want to go home.
Watch out: There are some exceptions where German and English are different. Notice that German likes things neat and tidy and therefore...
  • it places a comma between the two clauses.
  • it always puts the zu + infinitive in the end of the sentence.
  • it doesn't use zu with möchten, mögen, or wollen (English: I want to do something)
Guess what happens with Trennbare Verben?
We trennen them!
Hast du Lust, meine Freunde kennenzulernen?
Do you want to get to know my friends?
In Grammar words...
zu + verb clauses like this are called 'Infinitive clauses'. Remember an 'infinitive' is a verb in its original form, without any conjugations.
Both in English and German, infinitive constructions are not used in combination with modal verbs (I can to play, Ich kann zu spielen)
But!!! The verb 'to want' is not considered a modal verb in English, whereas in German möchten/mogen/wollen are modal verbs (I want to play, I möchte zu spielen), so remember to never use zu with them.
Lust haben...
It's not what you might be thinking! Did you know that in Old English 'lust' meant 'pleasure' or 'longing'? German has kept this original meaning and you can very much use it without feeling awkward... Lust haben means 'to feel like doing something', or simply 'to want'.