I have trouble with certain kinds of infinitive constructions. For example:

John is expected to wake up before 9 tomorrow.

I’m confused how you would order everything. Would it look like

John wird erwartet, morgen bevor 9 zu aufwachen.

or more like

John wird erwartet, zu aufwachen morgen bevor 9.

I’m just confused where the zu and the verb would go in relation to everything.

  • 3
    I fixed "erwartet" and the missing comma as these are not of importance to this question. Though, it should be "Es wird von John erwartet" or "Von John erwartet man" as already mentioned in the answers.
    – Em1
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 9:38
  • 1
    This construction has no directly parallel German constrution. We would say "John wird morgen voraussichtlich vor 9 Uhr aufwachen." Other passive+infinitive constructions translate to other adverbs. Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 11:30
  • 2
    Note that the english phrase is ambiguous: It can either mean that one expects it to happen or that one wants it to happen. So it may be a prediction or a demand. So the respective translations are in Lilian's comment or in BenjB's answer.
    – TaW
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 12:05
  • 1
    ‘Certain kinds of two-verb sentences’ → infinitive constructions.
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 12:30

3 Answers 3


Those kind of two-verb sentences are called accusative and infinitive. You can't translate them directly, because only some of them have an equivalent in German (some verbs of perception and some causative verbs).

So what you do is to look up the corresponding verb pattern:

"expect s.o. to do s.th" -> "von jemandem (Dat) erwarten, etwas zu tun"

(e.g. in Pons (Example sentences at bottom)), and you see it translates to a main clause + extended infinitive:

Von John wird erwartet, vor 9 Uhr aufzuwachen.

For other verbs, like

"to see s.o. doing s.th" -> "jemanden etwas tun sehen"

the construction is different:

Ich sehe ihn die Treppe hinaufkommen.

As for word order, the general rules apply (infinitives and participles at the end, in reverse order; conjugated verb in second position in a main clause and in last position in a subclause).

  • 1
    ‘And you see it translates to a main clause + subclause’ — no it does not. No finite verb = no subordinate clause. You have translated it with an infinitive construction, too. Subordinate would be ‘von John wird erwartet, dass er vor 9 Uhr aufwacht.’ It is a shame that I would have to give this answer – 1 for that misnomer …
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 12:34
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    @Jan: I consider extended infinitives to be subclauses. But I'm not arguing over nomenclature; edited.
    – dirkt
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 15:04

John is expected to wake up before 9 tomorrow.

actually in German would become

John muss morgen vor 9 aufwachen.


Es wird erwartet, dass John morgen vor 9 aufwacht.

You cannot translate from English to German using the same structure and words as you would do in English. You need to familiarize yourself with the structure and habits of German itself, leaving English out of it.

  • 1
    I totally agree that your versions are more idiomatic. I disagree that the direct translation as given by dirkt be impossible.
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 12:35

It gives you problems because you are afraid to split the verb aufwachen into several words.

To get you on the right track, the closest translation would be:

Es wird von John erwartet, morgen vor 9:00 Uhr auf zu wachen.

As you can see, the verb aufwachen is being split into three words by the zuauf zu wachen.


Es wird von John erwartet, dass er morgen vor 9:00 Uhr aufwacht.

To avoid the splitting of the verb, this phrase has become a relative clause.


John sollte morgen früh vor 9:00 Uhr aufwachen.

This has been turned into an estimation, with the help of the future form of sollen, leaving the verb aufwachen untouched.

I can’t explain it scientifically in linguistic terms as a German teacher surely can, but it is a correct translation of your phrase.

  • 5
    Are you seriously suggesting "auf zu wachen"?
    – Stephie
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 5:15
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    I was about fixing "auf zu wachen", then realized that you state in the next sentence that this was intentionally. -1 for telling this nonsense.
    – Em1
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 9:35
  • Hier wächst auseinander, was zusammengehört!
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 12:36

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