When a teacher gives the pupil the worst grade, why is he using infinitive and not imperative here?

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    imperative of (sich) setzen would either be sitz or setz dich, where sitz would be used to adress a dog (and almost only there). Setz dich on the other hand would be understood as an invitation to have a seat, rather than a command.
    – Burki
    Dec 1, 2015 at 13:10
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    @Burki Isn't sitz the imperative of sitzen? Dec 1, 2015 at 16:03
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    @c.p.: Als ich noch in die Schule ging, war es üblich, dass Schüler, die eine Frage beantworteten, dazu aufstehen mussten. Nachdem der Schüler die Antwort gegeben hat, gestattete der Lehrer dem Schüler sich wieder zu setzen (»Danke, Sie können sich wieder setzen«). Dann schrieb er die Beurteilung in sein Notizheft und gab die Note bekannt. Wenn der Schüler eine ungenügende Antwort gab, (also die Note 1 in der Schweiz, 5 in Österreich oder eben 6 in Deutschland), und das Sitz-Kommante zum Infiniv verkürzt wurde, wurde daraus eben »Setzen, 1« (CH), »Setzen, 5« (AT) oder »Setzen, 6« (DE) Dec 1, 2015 at 16:20
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    @Maasumi it is, but it is basically never used when adressing a person, only as command to an animal. (Except for perhaps some communication with humans in certain scenarios that would also involve a dog collar, but I digress.)
    – Stephie
    Dec 1, 2015 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


Because the infinitive can act as imperative in very short, oral instructions and commands. (Not for full sentences or polite requests!) On a train station:


Likewise for instructions that have no direct adressee. Quote from a random pack of tea from my cupboard:

Pro Tasse einen Aufgussbeutel mit sprudelnd kochendem Wasser übergießen und 8-10 Minuten ziehen lassen.

  • I think I remember the past participle being used in a similar fashion, but I'm not quite sure... something like stehengeblieben! Dec 1, 2015 at 16:00
  • Thank you, @Stephie! Is the reason that the language allows such usage of infinitive (over quite functional imperative) known, e.g. to allow further personal detachment from the command? How would a person choose whether to use infinitive or imperative? Is there a subtle difference in the meaning? Dec 1, 2015 at 20:40
  • @Maasumi, „Stillgestanden!“
    – Carsten S
    Dec 2, 2015 at 9:01
  • @MladenJablanović, perhaps some linguist could answer this better - I'm just a native speaker.
    – Stephie
    Dec 2, 2015 at 9:10
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    @MladenJablanović "Setz dich!" is more of a request or invitation (can be like a command if the authority gradient in a relationship suggests it, like between teachers and pupils) in general, "Setzen!" is a direct order, bar any trace of politeness. As an independent adult I would feel offended if anyone said that to me. I would expect a teacher to say "Setz dich..." today, whether he includes a grade or not. It's a matter of basic civility.
    – Stephie
    Dec 2, 2015 at 10:25

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