I have trouble translating English gerunds to German. After consulting some grammars, I've found some ways to do it. Two of them is to either use an infinitive construction or a nominalized verb with or without "das". Examples:

1a) Lesen macht Spaß (Nominalisiertes Verb).

1b) Das Lesen macht Spaß (Nominalisiertes Verb).

1c) Es macht Spaß zu lesen (Infinitiv).

2a) Gehen ist gesund (Nominalisiertes Verb).

2b) Das Gehen ist gesund (Nominalisiertes Verb).

3a) Singen (in der Dusche) macht Spaß (Nominalisiertes Verb).

3b) Das Singen (in der Dusche) macht Spaß (Nominalisiertes Verb).

3c) In der Dusche zu singen macht Spaß (Infinitiv).

a) Can it be that omitting "das" (e.g. "gehen") is more general and "das Gehen" more specific?

b) Are there cases when using the "infinitive construction" is better? For example in the case of 3c?

  • Just a suspicion: I would assume a lot of texts intended for learners of German are artificially injected with articles in front of substantiated verbs to signal "Hey! Watch out, this might be a substantive!"
    – tofro
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


Your examples are all correct. The definite article is optional and only used if you wanted to point a finger to a specific action:

Warum übst du nicht zuhause weiter? – Das Singen stört meine Frau.

Here, it should be Das Singen as you point to the specific action in üben which disturbs your wife.

For simple gerunds, both the infinitive noun and the zu-infinitive are equivalent. A problem arises when the zu-Infinitive has adverbs or particles:

Er empfahl zu sparen. / Er empfahl Sparen.

Er empfahl, mehr zu sparen. / Er empfahl vermehrtes Sparen.

Especially nicht is evil:

Er empfahl, nicht zu sparen. / Er empfahl Geldausgeben.

Modal particles can make the transformation impossible as they change the meaning in mysterious ways:

Er empfahl, bloß zu sparen.

He advocated saving money, by all means.

Er empfahl bloß Sparen.

He advocated saving money, I had hoped for better advice.

This problem arises from placing the comma. If it was behind bloß in the first sentence, the meaning would be the same as the second.

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