How can I turn the sentence

Ich habe das nicht machen können.

to a question? And In which situations would I use

Ich habe machen gewollt?

  • Your second example is plain wrong. One could only use it for comical effects. And it's Danke sehr or Vielen Dank, not Sehr danke.
    – Janka
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 20:51
  • Aside from the fact that it should be habe machen wollen using an Ersatzinfinitiv, the verb machen also requires some kind of accusative object so even the sentence ‘Ich habe machen wollen’ is incomplete — ‘Ich habe das machen wollen’ is complete, however.
    – Jan
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 12:43

4 Answers 4


I am not sure if understand your question question right but

Habe ich das nicht machen können?

would be the most direct way to form your first sentence into a question.

Ich habe machen gewollt

you better not use at all since it is wrong. A correct sentence would be

Ich wollte X gemacht haben.

which would use if you would have liked X to be done (by you).

  • 1
    1. Bitte lies deine Antwort einmal selbst durch, bevor du sie postest. Du hattest eine Wortwiederholung im Text. 2. Frage nicht, ob das die Frage beantwortet. In Antworten sollen Antworten stehen, keine weiteren Fragen. 3. Hinweise auf Fehler in einer Frage gehören in einen Kommentar (den du erst schreiben kannst, wenn du genügend Reputation gesammelt hast). Denn in Antworten sollen nur Antworten stehen. Der Hinweis auf einen Fehler in der Frage ist keine Antwort auf die Frage. Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 20:51
  • 2
    "Ich wollte X gemacht haben" hat nicht die gleiche Bedeutung wie das grammatikalisch falsche "Ich habe machen gewollt" (richtig: "Ich habe machen wollen")
    – tofro
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 8:33

First, examples of questions in first person are a bit awkward, as you had been asking yourself then. Let's put it into second person.

Ich verstehe. Du hast das nicht machen können.

I understand. You haven't been able to do it.

Making a question out of it is simple:

Ich verstehe dich nicht. Du hast das nicht machen können?

I don't understand you. You haven't been able to do it?

It's that simple. The intonation of the second sentence changes (voice up at the end of the sentence instead of voice down as usual.)

In addition, you can make a proper question of it by putting the finite verb at the first position. It doesn't matter whether it's an auxiliary or not

[…] Hast du das nicht machen können?

The meaning is (roughly) the same. Emphasis changes from Du to Hast, because the first word in the sentence has more emphasis. But that's something you could also take care for by intonation.

  • Danke sehr. But there one more thing. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 20:41
  • I've seen some examples on the internet pages which is about how to use perfekt with modals and it shows that i can use modals with suffix -ge- like ; ich habe dich sehen gekonnt. It was among the examples. What does it mean. If there a usage like this why am I wrong to use perfekt with modals. Pls enlight me about them. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 20:44
  • Ich habe dich sehen gekonnt is acceptable in certain dialects (Bavarian and Austrian German comes to mind) but it's neither standard nor widespread outside of these dialects. Standard is Ich habe dich sehen können or Ich konnte dich sehen; it's one of the few uses of Präteritum in speech. In writing, the latter is the only acceptable form. You can use modals in Standard German Perfekt, though, but not mixed with infinitives: Ich habe die Aufgaben gekonnt. is okay.
    – Janka
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 23:29

Your second sentence is wrong - The perfect tense construct for modal verbs (like "wollen") follows a special rule that asks for a Ersatzinfinitiv instead of the perfect participle of the modal verb. So instead of saying

Ich habe machen gewollt

you need to say

Ich habe machen wollen

like in your first sentence that has a proper infinitive ("können").

And questions in the perfect are being built from such sentences by slightly changing the word order (put the predicate in front):

Habe ich machen wollen?

  • But it was among an example on the internet which says you can use modals with suffix -ge after the intifinitive verb like ich habe dich sehen gekonnt or like this. I am so confused now because of those usages. If you would enlight me in brief, i get pleased much. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 20:48
  • Can you provide a reference? Some German dialects don't use the Ersatzinfinitiv in all cases. Your found example might be regional.
    – tofro
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 21:15
  • I'll seek it and write again. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 21:19
  • I got it in this link. verbformen.de/konjugation/… Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 0:20
  • ... and it's unfortunately just wrong, sorry. That page completely ignores the Ersatzinfinitiv. Another wrong example from there is "ich habe haben gewollt" which should be "ich habe haben wollen"
    – tofro
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 6:52

There are two general ways in which German turns sentences into questions: one being the polar question (or yes/no question) and the other being nonpolar or interrogative questions, i.e. those that use a question word.

To turn a normal sentence into a polar question, simply place the verb in first rather than second position and proceed as normal.

Ich habe das nicht machen können.

Thus, this sentence would be turned into:

Habe ich das nicht machen können?

To form an interrogative question, you would generally choose your question word as applicable, place that in first position and proceed normally (keeping your finite verb in second position):

Was habe ich nicht machen können?

Finally, there is also the concept of an intonational question; i.e. you are saying what is in fact a normal clause but using rising intonation making it into a confirmational question (‘that is true, isn’t it?’). For that type of question, do not change anything; just add rising intonation.

Ich habe das nicht machen können?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.