What I want to say in English:

In Citizenship, you learn how the prisons work.

Would the correct way to translate this be:

In Gemeinschaftskunde lernt man, wie die Gefängnisse funktionieren.


In Gemeinschaftskunde lernt man, wie die Gefängnisse zu funktionieren.

Or neither!

When answering, it would be great if you could also go into detail about why the translation is correct (like a general rule, or something).

2 Answers 2


Sentences that use the "zu-construction" don't have a conjugated verb in the second clause, which means that the verb coming after the zu (or "around" it) must always be in its infinitive form. In the sentence you gave us, "funktionieren" agrees with "Gefängnisse". If you used "Gefängnis" instead, you'd have to conjugate "funktionieren" accordingly, i.e. "Gefängnis funktioniert".


The connecting word "zu" translates to "to" in English. Since you don't need "to" in your English sentence, neither do you in the German one. The translation is pretty literal here.

  • Could the downvotes be explained?
    – digitalis_
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 16:55

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