I am a beginner and so far I have learned about statement, yes-no question, w- question, command but this kind of text seems very strange though I somehow get what it says.

Nudeln kochen, Schinken in Streifen schneiden, Zwiebeln und Tomaten in Würfel schneiden, Zwiebeln in einer Pfanne anbraten.

since it’s a recipe how to cook a dish. I assume that it should be written in command structure which can be translated

Cook noodles. Slice ham. Cut onions and tomatoes into cubes. Roast onions in a pan.

However, it isn’t written in the form of command I have learned. Usually, the verb must take 1st position then the subject and the object after that but in that text, subject is omitted and object comes 1st then the verb. And somehow it uses many commas to write only one sentence instead of dot to write many sentences. Is it ok to do that? What’s the problem with writing each clause into a sentence in this case?

  • 1
    Related (in German): german.stackexchange.com/questions/4874/…
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 5:02
  • Thank but I'm just a beginner so I'm very appreciate if you have english reference.
    – aukxn
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 5:13
  • I don't have time to write an answer now, just linked the related question for (possibly someone else's) reference.
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 5:20

4 Answers 4


In recipes, instructions and so on, the infinitive can be used instead of the imperative form. That's why the verb is at the end of the sentence, as usual for infinitives.

As you say, the command form would be

Kochen Sie die Nudeln! Schneiden Sie den Schinken in Streifen! ...

(note the pronoun), but this is often perceived as too strong for instructions or recipes.

In older recipes, you'll also see an impersonal construction along the lines of

Man nehme Nudeln und koche sie. Dann nehme man Schinken und schneide ihn klein. ...

There are other replacement forms for the imperative, e.g. see LEO's grammar reference or Wikipedia (both in German).

  • Man nehme... kommt mir mathematisch vor. Ich wusste nicht, dass es sonst irngendwo verwendet wurde.
    – c.p.
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 10:46
  • 2
    @c.p. In Koch- und Backrezepten beispielsweise. Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 12:00
  • 4
    @c.p.: Berühmter Werbeslogan: Man nehme Dr. Oetker.
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 12:20
  • 1
    Man nehme... is called the jussive mood.
    – Heinzi
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 12:44
  • 1
    @dirkt: Konkret man nehme vielleicht nicht, aber ähnliche Formulierungen wie man wähle, man betrachte usw.
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:07

You can see it that way: Nudeln kochen, ... is a description of the procedure to be followed, which gives all the information needed, if you would like to cook according to this recipe. It is not essential to write it as a command, the description will do.


In cooking books one uses the shortest form possible. So the normal sentence "Man muß Nudeln kochen, dann Schinken schneiden, dann ..." gets the shorter form with infinitives: Nudeln kochen, Schinken schneiden etc.


You are talking about two things:

Word order

If you say »Koche Nudeln!«, then this theoretically is the sort form of »Du koche Nudeln!« or »Koche du Nudeln!« (but both sentences are unusual). This is because in »Koche Nudeln!« there is no subject. The subject is »du«. (It's the same in English: The subject in »Cook noodles!« is the omitted word »you«.)

This becomes more clear if you use the polite form: »Kochen Sie Nudeln!«. Here you have to use »Sie« as the object, you can't leave it out.

But »Nudeln kochen.« is different. It is not a command. It is a suggestion or an advise. You are not forced to cook the noodles. But it would be wise to do so. It's up to you if you follow this instruction or not. In »Koche Nudeln!« you are forced to cook the noodles. You have no choice.

»Nudeln kochen« is a short way to say »Die Nudeln sollten gekocht werden.« (»The noodles should get cooked.«). So this is a sentence in passive voice. The subject is »Nudeln« and the grammatical agent (who is cooking the noodles?) is not in the sentence.

Comma or full stop?

Well, this is the same as in English. Also in English you have the possibility to join independent clauses with commas.

English is a foreign language to me, but I'm pretty sure that this is also correct English:

Cook noodles, slice ham, cut onion and tomatoes into cubes, roast onions in a pan.

It's just a way to express that this actions belong together and it sounds nicer because it is not so clipped. (Commands are short and clipped, but these are not military commands. It's a nice and friendly recipe.)

But you can also write this as separate sentences in German:

Nudeln kochen. Schinken in Streifen schneiden. Zwiebel und Tomaten in Würfel schneiden. Zwiebeln in einer Pfanne anbraten.

The difference is the style. If you use full stops, each sentence gets a little bit the character of a command because of is shortness. But the writer of this recipe isn't a military drill sergeant. He or she wants to talk friendly to the reader and so commas are the better choice.

  • 2
    Passive voice??
    – Carsten S
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 6:41

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