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1 : Ich dachte immer, du wärst viel zu beschäftigt, um zu deinem Vergnügen zu lesen.

I’m not sure how to interpret the part "um zu". Is it incorrect to omit either of the two words and say:

Ich dachte immer, du wärst viel zu beschäftigt, um deinem Vergnügen zu lesen.

Or:

Ich dachte immer, du wärst viel zu beschäftigt, zu deinem Vergnügen zu lesen.


The following example, on the other hand, takes the form of "zu ... um ...", unlike the "zu ... um zu ..." construction in the first example. I wonder why "zu ... um zu ..." cannot work here?

2 : zu stolz, um nachzugeben

= too proud to give in

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    It is not um zu, the zu is part of zu deinem Vergnügen. – Carsten S Jan 22 '17 at 21:24
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    In your second example, "zu" is hidden within "um nachZUgeben", so it also follows the "zu ... um zu" pattern. – Uwe Jan 22 '17 at 23:55
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1: Only your first sentence is grammatically correct:

Ich dachte immer, du wärst viel zu beschäftigt, um zu deinem Vergnügen zu lesen.

I always thought you were too busy to read for pleasure

As others have pointed out, the "zu" in "zu deinem Vergnüngen" is a preposition. I hope the different formatting clarifies that. I'll give you another example:

Ich dachte immer, du wärst viel zu beschäftigt, um mit deinen Freunden viel Zeit zu verbringen.

The conjunction "um" cannot be left out!

2: If you use a separable verb in the infinitive clause, "zu" is always included in the verb itself, similarly to the "ge" in past participles of separable verbs:

nachgeben -> nachzugeben
einkaufen -> einzukaufen
zusehen -> zuzusehen
verstehen (not separable) -> zu verstehen

Ich bin zu stolz, um nachzugeben.
Ich habe zu wenig Bargeld, um beim Bäcker einzukaufen.
Ich habe zu wenig Zeit, um dir beim Fußballspiel zuzusehen.
Ich bin zu müde, um komplizierte deutsche Sätze zu verstehen.

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As others have pointed out, there are a couple of subtleties that have confused you.

  1. zu is both a verbal particle marking extended infinitives (corresponding to to+verb) and an adverbial modifier implying excess (corresponding to too+adjective in English). (It is also a normal preposition, which can correspond to to but also to other English prepositions, as usual.)

  2. The role as a verbal particle can be incorporated into the verb if it has a particular stress pattern. Thus, nachzugeben is an extended infinitive just as zu widerstehen is.

Now for your question. Both particles are obligatory in your example sentence, but for different reasons. Omitting the zu in an extended infinitive is simply wrong. "...um zu deinem Vergnügen lesen" sounds strange to German ears. Omitting the um in um...zu is borderline acceptable:

Ich war zu beschäftigt, den Brief abzuschicken.

could be understood as "I was too busy to send the letter". However, it's dispreferred because it is ambiguous: it might just as well be taken to mean "I was too busy sending the letter"! You should normally use both markers in every such construction.

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  • Hi. So does the original sentence mean "too busy to read for your pleasure" or "so busy that you cannot read for your pleasure"? Actually, what had me puzzled was the existence of the "zu(for)" placed immediately before "deinem Vergnügen". Now I see where I was wrong. :) Merci. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jan 23 '17 at 9:10
  • Incidentally, is it considered redundant to add "sein" to the original sentence? "Ich dachte immer, du wärst viel zu beschäftigt sein, um zu deinem Vergnügen zu lesen." – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jan 23 '17 at 9:19
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    @Alone-zee That would be quite wrong. Both wärst and sein are forms of the verb "sein", and "sein" doesn't take a verbal complement. The only correct use of "sein" appearing twice in a verb phrase is in forming the perfect tense: "Ich bin im Urlaub gewesen." – Kilian Foth Jan 23 '17 at 9:30
  • Oh, thanks. If you omit the prepositional phrase "zu deinem Vergnügen", can you say "zu beschäftigt, um zu lesen"? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jan 23 '17 at 10:37

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