https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zzzzz...

About word order

I am doing the reverse tree and the following sentence appeared: Wir haben versucht zu gehen. Now I have been taught that in a sentence like this versucht should take the final position. Like this: Wir haben zu gehen versucht. My dear Duolingoers, please tell me whether the latter sentence makes any sense to you. What are the general guidelines concerning word order in sentences like these?

Thank you for making Duolingo such a great place! :)

August 6, 2016

8 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Gluehbirneee

Wir haben versucht zu gehen. sounds a lot more natural to me, Wir haben zu gehen versucht. sounds kind of old-fashioned and overly polite to me.

I think because 'zu gehen' is an additional information, it has to be added at the end of the sentence, similar to when you say 'Wir haben versucht, auf den Baum zu klettern.' (We tried to climb the tree.) 'auf den Baum zu klettern' is a a new clause, so technically versucht is still at the end of its own clause.

I can't think of any example right now, in which 'zu xyz' isn't in the last position in a sentence, so I suppose it always is that way.

August 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LKuko

Native speaker here, and I had to struggle to find an explanation, why I'd prefer the "Wir haben versucht zu gehen" over the "Wir haben zu gehen versucht". I think Gluehbirneee and jjd1123 are right.

Indeed, in german the verb is usually at the end of the sentence.

Sentences with infinitives are an exception to the rule: The infinitive is usually added as a subordinate clause. Technically the sentence is over with the verb describing what you really did (try), and the rest is only adding what you tried to do (leave, figurativeyl or walk, literally).

In reformed german grammar, it is easyer to understand because there would be a comma after "versucht": "Wir haben versucht, zu gehen". In traditional german grammar, the comma is only used when the infinitive is enhanced with additional information "Wir haben versucht, früh zu gehen" = "We tried to leave early" (socalled "erweiterter Infinitiv" ="extended infinitive clause") and the regular infinitiv is written without the comma "Wir haben versucht zu klettern" = "We tried to climb".

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kommaregeln#Erweiterter_Infinitiv

August 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jjd1123

I can't think of any example right now, in which 'zu xyz' isn't in the last position in a sentence, so I suppose it always is that way.

How about this:

Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt.
-- GG Art. 1

I think you're probably right that these extended infinitive clauses get treated like subordinate clauses (however, I don't think that this is related to the additional information provided, since you can also provide additional information with e.g. an adverbial), but that also implies that they should in principle be able to take any position that a subordinate clause can take. Of course, subordinate clauses and especially these infinitive clauses appear at the very end of a sentence quite often, but they don't have to be placed there.

August 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zzzzz...

Danke schön! Clearly, I still have a lot to learn. :)

August 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ordkan

I guess this topic has now been clarified. Just keep in mind that you have two different clauses: a main clause and an infinitive clause. I would also like to remind you that this applies to all kinds of infinitive clauses with zu:

  • Ich habe versucht, Deutsch zu lernen.
  • Ich habe einen Kurs gemacht, um Deutsch zu lernen.
  • Ich habe Deutsch gelernt, ohne einen Kurs zu machen.
  • Ich habe ein Buch gelesen, statt Deutsch zu lernen.

German is quite creative in terms of clauses, and it tends to differentiate them by adding commas into the sentence:

Ich habe versucht, Deutsch zu lernen, obwohl es schwierig ist.

MAIN CLAUSE + INFINITIVE CLAUSE + SUBORDINATE CLAUSE

August 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/donmac34

Not a native speaker but fairly fluent and the sentence as given sounds more natural to me than the sentence ending with "versucht" despite the fact that, as you say, we think of the past participle taking last place. I'm sure this is used. I've often seen and heard such constructions and have decided it is perhaps because the "zu gehen" (in this case) is seen as a separate clause. Native speakers needed here I think. Congrats on your levels and streak!

August 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zzzzz...

Danke schön! :)

August 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mitStrudel

Just to back up what everyone else has said: I learned that, whenever you have zu + a verb in the infinitive, you have there an infinitive clause. So, wir haben versucht zu gehen contains two clauses; versucht is in the final position of the main clause. If you were to remove the infinitive clause, the sentence would still make sense (although of course it wouldn't be so informative).

August 6, 2016
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