Sorry that I don't know the right words for it, but here is an example.

Apparently the sentence

Du musst mir helfen, das zu verstehen.

is correct, but I do not understand why "das zu verstehen" comes after the verb helfen and not before. For example, I cannot say

Du musst gehen zum Geschäft.

One must say

Du musst zum Geschäft gehen.

So why? Can one just keep adding "verb phrases"?

  • "You must help me understand this". There's no fundamental difference to other languages here.
    – tofro
    May 21, 2017 at 16:43
  • German is a bit weird in that usually if you have a 2nd verb in the sentence, assuming there isn't any "because" or "when" or other word linking 2 sentences together, the 2nd verb goes to the end of the sentence and the 1st verb is usually the 2nd word in the sentence.
    – luca590
    May 21, 2017 at 17:23
  • Infinitive clauses can (and usually do) go after the main clause. Shorter infinitive clause can also go before.
    – dirkt
    May 22, 2017 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


Du musst mir helfen, das zu verstehen. Du musst zum Geschäft gehen.

You are looking for a construction using helfen as a modal verb. Such a thing exists in German:

Du musst mir verstehen helfen.

However, this pattern is quite limited. You can add the thing to understand:

Du musst mir die Hausaufgaben verstehen helfen.

but this already sounds incredibly awkward to German speakers' ears. Instead, we use a dependent clause with zu + infinitiv. It even has a name: Infinitivsatz.

Du musst mir helfen, die Hausaufgaben zu verstehen.



I would like to add the following observation.

Since the sentence

Du musst mir das verstehen helfen.

gets to complex in a way, it is natural to split it into two simpler sentences:

Du musst mir helfen, das zu verstehen.

You could also split

Du musst zum Geschäft gehen.


Du musst gehen, zum Geschäft.

But the sentence was already simple to begin with. So, there is less motivation to split it up and thus the latter is a non-standard form, only rarely used, to have a certain stylistic effect.

  • 1
    One might add that also "Du musst mir das zu verstehen helfen" would count for a valid sentence, although again it is too twisted for using it in everyday language. May 22, 2017 at 0:07

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