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My question refers to the sentence highlighted in bold in the below passages from Der Spiegel:

Fast ein Jahr ist es her, seit Merkel in jener legendären Nacht vom 4. auf den 5. September 2015 beschloss, Tausende, in Ungarn gestrandete Flüchtlinge nach Deutschland einreisen zu lassen. Es war eine einsame Entscheidung, eine, die das Land veränderte und auch den Blick auf die Kanzlerin.

Sie hat getan, was man ihr sonst immer vorgeworfen hat, nie zu tun. Merkel, sonst zögerlich und abwägend, hat sich festgelegt, persönlich, schnell, unwiderruflich. Und dabei haben wohl auch Emotionen einen Rolle gespielt bei ihr, der gewöhnlich nüchtern kalkulierenden Physikerin der Macht.

Would not the following rendering of the sentence be better?

Sie hat getan, was man ihr sonst immer vorgeworfen hat, nie getan zu haben.

3 Answers 3

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I'm not sure whether this this differentiation would be considered as "linguistic precision" or as "nitpicking", but one could say that both statements have slightly different meanings:

..., was man ihr sonst immer vorgeworfen hat, nie zu tun.

The accusation happened in the past. And the accusation was that she never does it.

..., was man ihr sonst immer vorgeworfen hat, nie getan zu haben.

Here, the accustion also happened in the past. But it was that she never has done it (up to the point in time where the accusation was made).

In many cases, statements that involve the word "nie" do not refer to a particular time:

Jemand wirft ihr vor, das nie zu tun

Or a colloquial example:

Du machst nie die Tür zu!

This is a general statement and may refer to things that have not been done in the past, are not done now, or may not be done in the future. I think that the author simply did not have a reason to refer strictly to the past in this case.


A side note: Intuitively, I'd rather phrase this sentence as "Sie hat getan, wovon man ihr sonst immer vorgeworfen hat, es nie zu tun" - but I would have to think a while about why I would say it like that, and why it should be worse or better than the original sentence.

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  • Definitely linguistic precision and correctness ;)
    – Jan
    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:20
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Both sentence constructions are grammatically correct but different in meaning.

Infinitiv Präsens (Infinitv I):

Sie hat getan, was man ihr sonst immer vorgeworfen hat, nie zu tun.
She did what she has otherwise always been accused of never doing. (as a rule)

Infinitiv Perfekt (Infinitiv II):

Sie hat getan, was man ihr sonst immer vorgeworfen hat, nie getan zu haben.
She did what she has otherwise always been accused of never having done. (in the past)

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The sentence is correct. It expresses a general rule, which says that Merkel never does something quickly and without much pondering.

People often complained about that. They complained that she never does something spontaneously, which - as it is a general rule - implies that she hasn't done it in the past and that she's not going to do it in the future.

A simpler example would be:

Du hast mir doch immer vorgeworfen, dass ich nie den Müll runterbringe! Schau mal in die Küche...

This construction expresses that now a general rule has been broken.

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