müssen vs. brauchen, zu ________

I know Duo doesn't really allow brauchen, zu ____ when it's expecting müssen, but can anyone shed light on whether it's actually ok to use brauchen this way in real life? Zum Beispiel:

"Ich brauche, meine Hausaufgaben zu machen!" vs. "Ich muss meine Hausaufgaben machen!"

I'm fully aware that brauchen is about needing a thing (noun), not a compulsion to DO something (with a verb) like müssen.

But I've heard natives use brauchen with a zu-construction a lot, and I guess I want to know whether:

a) they're wrong and we shouldn't. b) they're wrong and we can anyway. c) it's fine.

I like the idea that there might be more ways to express compulsion than just the single verb, müssen.

September 7, 2017


Hi Elliott,

there are sentences Germans use "brauchen" when they mean "müssen" but it is colloquial language! In your example I don't think you can use it. It's really hard to explain because it's not "good" german and I don't think there are rules for how to use it correctly. Just because it isn't correct german in the first place. Let us think two brothers are talking.

A: Ich will noch zu 'nem Freund. Meinst Du Mama erlaubt es? B: Du brauchst nur Deine Hausaufgaben zu machen, dann wird sie es schon erlauben.

So it's sometimes used in a sense of "you only have to do ...., then... happens. But please don't think too much about it. You can hear it once in a while but it isn't good or correctly german.

best regards Angel

September 7, 2017

Danke für die hilfreiche Antwort. Hier ist ein Lingot. :)

September 7, 2017

Hallo Elliott,

danke schön :-) colloquial language is always tricky especially in german (I think).

Also keine Ursache, gern geschehen.

liebe Grüße Angel

September 7, 2017

Das finde ich auch so.

September 7, 2017

You can't use it the way you used it. Like Angel said, it is colloquial German (I think, mostly in southern Germany). If you negate your expression to "ich brauche meine Hausaufgaben heute nicht zu machen" it sounds pretty good and it can also be said "ich muss meine Hausaufgaben heute nicht machen" (maybe I need them the day after tomorrow). Obviously the meaning of the two overlap in certain places but are different in others.

September 8, 2017

Hi Hannibal,

I think you are right. This kind of "no"-german is more common in southern germany. But mostly as a negation. In the bavarian dialekt it is common to say. So when someone thinks about to do something and there's no need for the counterpart could say "na, des brauchst ned machen" or "na, des brauchens ned machen". That is really very common when I think about it right now.

best regards Angel

September 8, 2017
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