1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Writing recipes in German


Writing recipes in German

I'm confused about the grammar behind writing recipes in German. I had previously read that the imperative is used, but looking a number of examples, it seems that some kind of a construction using the infinitive is used instead. Can anyone tell me what this is called/where I can find more information on it? Many thanks in advance!

July 29, 2015



As with English, there are a variety of ways to write instructions. Some examples in German:

Du Imperativ: Gib die Eier in eine Schüssel.

Höflichkeitsform/Sie Imperativ: Geben Sie die Eier in eine Schüssel.

Passiv: Die Eier werden in eine Schüssel gegeben.

Infinitiv Aufforderung: Die Eier in eine Schüssel geben.

More examples, helpful and informative: http://www.canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/Satz/Satzart/Aufforderung.html


Should be:

Passiv: Die Eier werden in eine Schüssel gegeben.


Danke für die Berichtigung.


Thank you! Is it okay to mix these different forms, or would a recipe generally only be written in one?


From what I've seen recipes are fairly consistent and don't change form without a good reason. There are times a change in form is practical.


This one is primarily in the Infinitiv but you can see here an example of needing to change form:

"In einem großen Topf Wasser zum Kochen bringen und salzen. Wer darin fit ist, kann nun die Spätzle vom Brett schaben. Ich habe einen Spätzlemacher dazu - der wird aufgesetzt und der Teig mit einem Schaber durch Löcher ins Wasser gedrückt. Dabei entstehen die kleinen kugeligen Knöpfli. "


Do you have examples to show us?


Man nehme:

  • 3 Liter Wasser,
  • 5 gehäufte Esslöffel Zucker
  • ...

This is not the infinitive. Infinitives ends normally on "-en" or "-eln". It is also not the imperative. The imperative of "nehmen" is "nimm". It is "Konjunktiv I". You may call it subjunctive.


Sorry, I probably should have thought to include an example in my post!

Something like this: Linsen waschen und verlesen. In reichlich Wasser ohne Salz bissfest garen. In der Zwischenzeit die Knoblauchzehe fein hacken. Kreuzkümmel, Koriandersamen und Szechuanpfeffer in einem Mörser grob mahlen. Die Linsen abgießen, kalt abschrecken.

I've seen a lot of the methods written this way. I know I need to practice Konjunktiv I though!


Yes, this is very common in recipes or other step-by-step instructions - simply using the infinitive to show steps in a procedure.

The infinitive goes at the end, as it normally does. You simply don't have a finite verb in second position (and no subject, either).

The sentence syntax is otherwise unspectacular. (For example, you could put "Ich werde ....." or "Sie müssen ....." at the beginning of the sentences and they will otherwise look the same.)

I'm not sure what the name for this kind of construction is.

As tattertodd and Abendbrot write, it's not the only possibility for writing recipes etc.


I think I remember that French recipes also often use the infinitive for the various steps.


Thank you for your help! Do you only come across this in recipes/instructions?


I think it's mostly limited to instructions, since that's the kind of field where you find commands.

But "instructions" covers a fairly wide field - it could be assembly instructions for furniture, a recipe (= instructions on how to prepare food) or even signs such as "Push" (on a door), "No smoking", "Do not lean out of the window", "Please have your passport ready as you approach the checkpoint", and the like.


I also have been trying to write and translate recipes in German. I thought it was going to be easy, but it is tricky. There are many ways to do it, I have seen a few ways in blogs and magazines.


I've made a few recipes written in German and the first thing I noticed is that the word order is the opposite of English. I would say, "Mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder" which is verb then object. In German the ingredients (or objects) come first:" Mehl, Zucker und Backpulver vermischen." Yes, it's an infinitive but translate it as an imperative. You can see lots of examples at ChefKoch http://www.chefkoch.de/ If you're from the US brush up on the metric system!

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.