I've been wanting to translate a sentence:

He needs more time to reply to your letter.

Here's what I've written:

Er braucht mehr Zeit, um auf Ihren Brief zu antworten.

I wanted to inquire if it's okay to use another preposition after um.

  • 1
    A possibility would be "Er braucht mehr Zeit, [um] Ihren Brief zu beantworten.". The "um" is optional in this case.
    – PerlDuck
    Nov 20, 2016 at 15:22
  • Thanks, but why would it be optional? Doesn't the sentence imply the 'in order to' construction? Nov 20, 2016 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


Yes, because this um is not a preposition. It's a subordinating sentence conjunction. There are various morphs in German that can be either, and it's not a problem to combine them like this if the syntax allows it.

You can even combine two instances of the same morph when it fuilfills different roles, like this:

Ich brauche zwei Stunden, um um den See zu laufen

This might be slightly dispreferred for reasons of euphony, but syntactically it's perfectly okay.

  • But it’s not a sentence conjunction either. um den See zu laufen is not a sentence, neither is um um den see zu laufen.
    – Jan
    Nov 20, 2016 at 19:44
  • The structure is an "Infinitiv mit zu" (infinitive clause with "zu"), which is fairly common in German. And yes, it does no have to be "auf" after "um". Nov 20, 2016 at 20:18

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