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 '16 at 15:22
  • Thanks, but why would it be optional? Doesn't the sentence imply the 'in order to' construction? – ali_ runnindis Nov 20 '16 at 15:25

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 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 '16 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". – user1583209 Nov 20 '16 at 20:18

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