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"Sie konnten uns nicht kommen hören."

Translation:They could not hear us coming.

January 23, 2013



Could it also be translated: "You could not come to hear us" ?


no, that would be 'Sie konnten uns nicht (zu)hören kommen'


This follows the general German rule: most important verb comes at the end.


I have never seen two infinitives like this together. Is there a rule for word order? Thanks.


See here: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~german/Grammatik/WordOrder/WordOrder.html It's quite a long page, so I recommend searching for 'double infinitive'

The short version: double infinitives in perfect tenses go to the last position.


Thank you so much for this info! Do you work for Duolingo or are you just awesome because you always post really useful information and help everyone? :)

Does it matter which of the two infinitives come first? Is what I'm asking. Also, why does the modal verb not get pushed to the end as well? Or is it just the non-modal verbs that do that? Thanks!


Thanks. No, I don't work for duolingo and I really am awful ;-) I'll restrict myself to main clauses. Word order in subordinate clauses is a little bit different (see the link).

It depends on the two verbs. The general idea is that the last verb carries the main action of the infinitive pair. In our case, the main action is 'to hear'. What did they (not) hear? Our coming. If you switched the order, the main action would be 'to come' – they could not come to hear (i.e. listen to) us. It doesn't work with these two verbs, however, because 'to listen to' is 'zuhören' in German. So: "Sie konnten uns nicht zuhören kommen" - "They couldn't come to listen to us." Hope that helps.

And because you are so nice, here is special gift for you: A triple infinitive: "Sie werden uns nicht zuhören kommen können" ;-)


those verb clusters give me nightmares D:


"Hätten sie uns nicht zuhören kommen gedurft haben sollen?" – "Shouldn't they have been allowed to come to listen to us?" ;-) But don't panic: I had to make up this example. You'll rarely hear a German actually speak that way ;-) But from a grammatical point of view, it works ;-)


Me too! Lol! Another nightmare for me was/is Adverbs! Hate them!


well, thanks to you there's finally a silver lining. Perhaps they should have explained it just like that during those German courses I took back in college. They didn't even bother to explain what 'kaum' actually means, so, you get the picture.

Thank you thank you thank you :)


How do the verb clusters work? What order do you put them in?


Oh wow. Does that mean "They will not be able to listen to us come"? Or "They will not be able to come to us listening"? Lol . . . Does it work backwards like that?


It means 'they will not be able to come to listen to us' ;-)


u just killed me with that sentence.


If I may, why do I find it difficult to use a zu-infinitive clause? I mean, "Sie konnten nicht kommen, uns zu hoeren" oder "Sie konnten nicht kommen, um uns zu hoeren". I feel like something is wrong.. So what is the difference between the three versions?


I think I will never be able to understand the word order in German, pfff!


I'm having trouble figuring out why the nicht is where it is... Say for instance you wanted to say "They could hear us not come." (which I realize is a little silly). It seems to me that the nicht should be between either the kommen and the hören or the konnten and the uns in the duolingo example, so I'm wondering how I can differentiate that nicht in the case of double infinitives.


See here for the position of "nicht": http://is.gd/EZo9IV If you want to express that you could hear the not-coming, you have to restort to a noun construction: "Sie konnten unser Nichtkommen hören".


am i right in thinking that in order say, 'they could not come listen to us' one would have to insert ZU before hören?


"they could not come listen to us" would be 'Sie konnten uns nicht zuhören kommen' or "Sie konnten nicht kommen, (um) uns zuzuhören". Is that what you meant?


Ich kann etwas hören... ohne ZU.

Ich habe Lust, etwas zu machen... mit ZU

I think ZU often replaces the TO, but the one in front of the verb. "Listen to us" has "TO" but not before a verb.

(Let's see if some native German gives a better explanation. :) )


Isn't "konnten" related to the past? http://www.verbix.com/webverbix/German/k%C3%B6nnen.html why couldn't the answer be: "They couldn't have heard us coming." ?


could is also the past of can, probably it is used in the sense similar to English


nobody expects the spanish inquisition


So how would "They could not hear us arrive " in German be?


Would it be ok to say like this? Sie konnten uns kommen nicht hören.


Now Duolingo extrapolated!!


I think the degree of difficult increased suddenly... I'm almost giving up...


There have always been a few harder sentences thrown in randomly, and true, occasionally whole lessons are hard, but that is no cause to give up. The hardest part of language learning is usually near the beginning. If you can muster the patience and perseverance to get past that first big hump, it gets easier from there.


"That first big hump"...uh... Thanks for the encouragement.


Couldn't = could not!!


Is the Perfect form of this sentence this: " Sie haben konnen uns nicht kommen gehort"?


I think it would be

Sie haben uns nicht kommen hören gekonnt.

Try thinking replacing the English word "could" with "were able to" to make the tenses clearer.

They were not able to hear us coming --> They have not been able to hear us coming.

Corresponds to the change

Sie konnten --> Sie haben gekonnt

Only one verb takes the second slot in the sentence (haben) and the rest stack backwards at the end. The verb that's most critically tied in with the verb phrase (gekonnt) comes at the very end. The Dartmouth article linked above does an excellent job of explaining it, but if the grammatical terminology is too much for you, try: https://yourdailygerman.com/german-word-order/

(They could not have been able to hear us coming = Sie konnten uns nicht kommen hören können gehabt????? Or would it be "dürfen" or "müssen"? I still get all those different negations mixed up...)


how do we know the pronoun "uns" is tied to which of the 2 infinitives at the end..whether it is "hear us coming" or "coming us hear"?even though the later doesn't make sense but still i am curious.

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