Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

A simple example to explain what I mean: as far as I know, the following sentence is correct:

1 - Ich habe begonnen, zu machen, was du gesagt hattest.

Is the following, alternate form correct?

2 - Ich habe begonnen, was du gesagt hattest zu machen.

And if it is, is the logical next step also correct?

3 - Ich habe was du gesagt hattest zu machen begonnen.

Is there a rule?

share|improve this question
4  
Note that the first comma in version 1 is optional nowadays. –  Raphael Jun 22 at 16:19

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

All of them correct, except for the punctuation in the last sentence. An injected infinitive group like was du gesagt hattest zu machen must be enclosed by commas.

The rule for nesting subordinate clauses is: everything is allowed as long as you stay to the word order in each clause and don't mix clauses or references.

Punctuation There are two different models for this sentence, each yielding different punctuation.

  1. beginnen etwas zu machen is base form of the predicate. In this case, was du gesagt hattest is the object and the sentences have to be:

    1 - Ich habe begonnen zu machen, was du gesagt hattest.
    2 - not possible
    3 - Ich habe, was du gesagt hattest, begonnen zu machen.

  2. etwas beginnen is the base form of the predicate. In this case, was du gesagt hattest, zu machen is the object (that can have different internal structures due to its nature of a subclause nesting another subclause) and the sentences have to be:

    1 - Ich habe begonnen, zu machen, was du gesagt hattest.
    2 - Ich habe begonnen, was du gesagt hattest, zu machen.
    3 - Ich habe, was du gesagt hattest, zu machen, begonnen.

share|improve this answer
4  
Actually, "was du gesagt hattest" is the relative clause and has to be enclosed by commas. "zu machen" belongs to the main clause. –  Raphael Jun 22 at 16:19
    
@Raphael I have asked a Germanis about it and found out, there are two different models of this sentence. I will change my answer accordingly. –  Toscho Jun 23 at 12:28
1  
1.3 is certainly wrong. At least the last comma is too much; if this comma would be correct, you'd be saying that you started doing what some else said having done. – The construction is terrible at any rate; and I'm not sure if version 3 is ever correct (without considering any punctuation) –  Em1 Jun 23 at 13:27
    
for reference also see this question here –  Vogel612 Jun 23 at 16:57
    
In 2.3 the third comma has to go, otherwise your sentences seem to be okay now. FWIW, I'd go with 1.1 or 2.1 if the comma adds clarity (in more complicated cases). (By the way, I'm not too sure about the use of Plusquamperfekt here. I think I'd use Präteritum in writing in Perfekt in spoken language.) –  Raphael Jun 24 at 17:43

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.