Was müssen Sie alles tun?

I am confused by alles tun. I know that tun means to do and alles means everything or all.

From this I would arrive at:

What you must do all?

But that doesn’t make sense to me.

  • What you must do all? is wrong, isn't it? "Müssen" in English is "have to", not "must". Am I right?
    – Iris
    Dec 9 '15 at 9:13
  • 1
    @Iris, both "must" and "have to" express an imperative. Depending on context & emphasis, they're fairly interchangeable, though "must" indicates a stronger obligation: "I have to go shopping today." ... "I must go right now!" ... "Wow, I have to try that!" Essentially the same, but it sounds odd to use "must" with a mundane chore, e.g. "I must buy eggs and cheese" (what, for the good of humanity? why so serious?).
    – mc01
    Dec 9 '15 at 18:30

Consider the question without alles.

"Was müssen Sie [alles] tun?"

What ... must ... you (singular formal) ... [everything] ... do?

What must you do?

The alles implies that there are several unnamed things you could potentially list. The person asking expects you to describe some of these things.

Your specific answer depends on the situation, but in general could look like this:

Ich muss [task1 + verb], [task2 + verb], and [task3 + verb].

The answer does not have be a complete, numbered list of literally everything, but a general sample of some of the many things you must do.


This is informal speech. It comes down to "what are all the things you must do?". See this question for reference.

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