Using “um … zu”, “statt … zu” and “ohne … zu” in German

Using “um … zu”, “statt … zu” and “ohne … zu” in German

Often German students are insecure when they should be using “zu” before a verb. Find out in this article when and how to use “um … zu,” “statt … zu,” and “ohne … zu”.

 

“zu” in German

Many students have with “zu” before a verb because they do not know when to really use it. Because of this insecurity, they often get lost because they assume that the German “zu + verb” is the same as the English “to + verb,” and therefore, they simply adapt English grammar to German grammar. However, using another language’s grammar in any other language seldomly works out. This is why we will discuss “um … zu,” “statt … zu,” and “ohne … zu” in the following.

 

“um … zu” in German

In German, “um … zu” means “in order to.” If you decide to use this construction, you will have to use the same subject in the “um … zu” part, which you used in the main clause. If you do not have the same subject, you need to use “damit” instead.  It is possible to start a sentence with “um … zu” in German, but you can also put it in the second part of your sentence. However, there are a few things you need to be aware of when forming a sentence with “um … zu”.

  1. The verb in the “um … zu” part takes the position at the end of the sentence.
  2. The verb that follows the “zu” needs to be in the infinitive form (the unchanged verb, e.g., machen)
  3. If you have a separable verb, the “zu” gets in between the prefix and the rest of the verb (einzuschlafen, auszusteigen, mitzumachen)

Examples:

1. Ich lerne viel, um den Test zu bestehen. – (I am learning a lot in order to pass the test.)

   Um den Test zu bestehen, lerne ich viel.

 

2. Ich gehe einkaufen, um später Abendessen für meine Familie zu kochen. – (I go shopping in order to cook dinner for my family later.)

   Um später Abendessen für meine Familie zu kochen, gehe ich einkaufen.

 

 

“statt … zu” in German

You can use “statt … zu” if you would like to express “instead of + verb.” Likewise the “um … zu” construction, you also need to have the same subject in both parts of your sentence. Moreover, you can also start a sentence with “statt … zu” or put it in the second part. In general, the rules of “um … zu” also apply to “statt … zu”.

  1. The verb in the “statt … zu” part takes the position at the end of the sentence.
  2. The verb that follows the “zu” needs to be in the infinitive form (the unchanged verb, e.g., machen)
  3. If you have a separable verb, the “zu” gets in between the prefix and the rest of the verb.

Examples:

1. Ich bin auf eine Party gegangen, statt für den Test zu lernen.  – (Instead of studying for the test, I went to a party.) 

   Statt für den Test zu lernen, bin ich auf eine Party gegangen.

 

2. Ich habe ihr eine Sprachnachricht gesendet, statt sie anzurufen. – (Instead of calling her, I sent her a voice message.)

   Statt sie anzurufen, habe ich ihr eine Sprachnachricht gesendet.

 

 

“ohne … zu” in German

By using “ohne … zu” you can say “without + verb.” Like the other two constructions, also with “ohne … zu” you need to have the same subject in both parts of your sentence. Likewise, you can also start a sentence with “ohne … zu” or put it in the second part.

  1. The verb in the “ohne … zu” part takes the position at the end of the sentence.
  2. The verb that follows the “zu” needs to be in the infinitive form (the unchanged verb, e.g., machen)
  3. If you have a separable verb, the “zu” gets in between the prefix and the rest of the verb.

Examples:

1. Ich bin zum Arzt gegangen, ohne einen Termin zu machen.  – (I went to the doctor without making an appointment.) 

   Ohne einen Termin zu machen, bin ich zum Arzt gegangen.

 

2. Ich habe den Test bestanden, ohne viel dafür zu lernen. – (I have passed the test without having to learn a lot for it.)

   Ohne viel dafür zu lernen, habe ich den Test bestanden.

 

 

The three “zu”-constructions

After reading this article, I hope that you know how to use all of the three constructions properly. In general, they all follow the same rules: This means that if you know one, you know them all! If you would like to broaden your German grammar knowledge a little bit more, check out when to use “damit” and “um … zu” in German

 

Bis bald!

Steffie

 


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