The following sentence means ‘He had to go away urgently’, but where is the verb go in the sentence? It seems the sentence lacks the verb go.

Er musste dringend weg.


The verb is wegmüssen here, that's why there's no need of go. (Like: losfahren => Er fuhr sofort los.)

Sometimes müssen is like a state indicator in German language, like must be; in spite of English where must is an auxiliary verb. In my opinion, the best English fit would be

He must be off, urgently. (He had to be off, urgently.)

  • Actually this makes complete sense. I would still argue that you can view it as an ellipsis, because wegmüssen (compound verb) and weggehen müssen (ellipsis if you leave out gehen) both work in the example sentence, but this is a better answer than mine I think. It's both, but yours is the obvious way to interpret the sentence, mine is less straightforward. – Stefano Palazzo Sep 6 '16 at 10:34

Yes, it absolutely lacks the verb to go. If you want, it could also be rendered as:

Er musste dringend weggehen.


Er musste dringend gehen.

It's an example of ellipsis, the rhetoric device whereby parts of a sentence are omitted.

Using an ellipsis is not a question of grammar, but of semantics. You can generally do it if the context makes clear the meaning of the sentence.

  • Certainly +1, but it's worth noting that the sentence doesn't necessarily apply "to go / gehen". Perhaps, he had to drive away, run away. Though, "gehen" in a universal meaning (not related to walking) is the most common one. – Em1 Sep 6 '16 at 7:06
  • Good point, and an opportunity to learn about Verben der Bewegung (verbs of movement), Where you build the perfect with sein instead of haben. I.e. ich bin gegangen/gefahren/geradelt. – Stefano Palazzo Sep 6 '16 at 9:14

The translation reads: 'He had to [go] away urgently’.

The "go" (verb gehen in German), in brackets, is "understood" in this context. That is to say that "weg" is an abbreviation for weggehen.

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