In my native language, Spanish, it is possible to use a phrase introduced by an infinitive as a subject. If i'm not wrong, it is plausible in English too. For example:

Living in the countryside is relaxing.

But, can this be done in German? I know that if use a noun the sentence will have the same meaning, but I would like to know this fact.

Is one of these possibilities right?

Wohnen auf dem Land, ist entspannend.

Auf dem Land zu wohnen, ist entspannend.


  • In English it is not an infinitive but gerund.
    – Eller
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


Both examples you give are legit and both are commonly used.

Any German infinitive can be substantized and receive all traits of a substantive. A prominent example might be the translation of Hamlet's to be or not to be to

Sein oder Nichtsein, das ist hier die Frage


Irren ist menschlich

the translation of the Latin "errare humanum est"

Note, in substantive use, the infinitives start with an upper-case letter, and can also carry an article. Note because the infinitive is used as a substantive, there's no additional commas involved - The comma in your first example is wrong.

[Das] Wohnen auf dem Land ist ...

Your other example uses an Infinitivsatz that can act as a subject or object in a sentence. Infinitivsätze always use the conjunction "zu" with the infinitive.

Auf dem Land zu wohnen[,] ist ...

Note this is no substantival use (the whole subclause forms the subject of the sentence) and thus the infinitive starts with a lower case letter. The comma used to be mandatory, but became optional with the latest changes in German grammar.


Both examples are possible, but leave the commas out.

  • Welcome to German Language SE. We’re looking for answers that provide some explanation and context. Don’t just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. (This applies to your other recent answers as well.)
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 7:08
  • Also, the comma in the second example can be used as it is separating an infinitive.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 7:09

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