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I am from Italy and today I had a discussion about a German phrase. So I wanted to ask which of these two is correct:

  1. Um die grüne Soße zu erhalten, hacken die Kräuter

  2. Um die grüne Soße zu erhalten, die Kräuter hacken

Please also explain why it is correct.

Background: my teacher claimed in class that the first version is the only correct version. However, I think the second version is correct.

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  • Here we are talking about the rules of the word ordering, I can't see any dictionary-ish in this post. I suggest vote to "leave open". – peterh - Reinstate Monica Jan 13 '18 at 16:44
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Buongiorno,

Version 1) is in no case correct, because the main clause "hacken die Kräuter" misses a subject.

Version 2) may be read as imperative, meaning to get green Sauce someone has to cut the herbes.

What I understand: It is necessary to cut the herbes to get it green. In other words: It is not sufficient to only put the herbes into it.

My suggestion: Hacken Sie die Kräuter vorher, um eine grüne Soße zu erhalten.

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  • The original phrase was " to get the green sauce (where the green sauce is the actual Name of the sauce), chop the herbes, and the teacher insisted that the first one was correct, while i was saying that it didn't make sense and the second one was grammatically correct – Ciospo99 Dec 15 '17 at 14:08
  • The true imperative would be "Hacken Sie die Kräuter". "Die Kräuter hacken" is rather an infinitive that can be used as a replacement for the imperative. German has alternatives for the imperative, even the perfect participle can sometimes be used for that purpose, as in "Hiergeblieben!" (literally: stayed here, but the meaning is: stay here). – RHa Dec 15 '17 at 14:26
  • I just hate teachers who are wrong and claim to be right...i still dont get how she thought that " hacken die kraüter" was right...i study german since i was 4 years old....and she couldn't notice such a mistake – Ciospo99 Dec 15 '17 at 14:40
  • Oh...a last question...are you german? or are you a german teacher? – Ciospo99 Dec 15 '17 at 14:41
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    "Hacken die Kräuter" is almost correct, but a Sie must be added. – RHa Dec 16 '17 at 6:48
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You have established in various comments that the intended meaning is

To get the green sauce, chop the herbs.

This is obviously an imperative construction. In German, this would usually be rendered in one of the two following ways:

  1. an unpersonal infinitive
  2. using the formal Sie-form of the imperative

In the context of a recipe, the former is more likely, if you are telling someone verbally e.g. in a cooking course I would expect the latter. In any case, here are the two typical ways:

Um die Grüne Soße zu erhalten, die Kräuter hacken.

(Corresponds to your suggestion 2)

Um die Grüne Soße zu erhalten, hacken Sie die Kräuter.

(Similar to your suggestion 1 but including the pronoun Sie.)

Thus, for the intended meaning only 2 is correct (but 1 is close).


Sentence 1 in the way you present it can indeed be understood in a grammatically sound way. This is because of German’s liberal word order and in this case the ambiguity of case. Note that in the intended example, die Kräuter must be accusative because they are on the receiving end of the action. However, accusative and nominative are indistinguishable in the plural and assuming die Kräuter to be nominative would create another almost allowed sentence.

Um die Grüne Soße zu erhalten, hacken die Kräuter.

The meaning here is that the herbs are cutting/hacking something so that they (the herbs) may receive the green sauce. The only unanswered question is what they are hacking but if sufficient context was established previously it could be said or written that way.

Note that nobody would ever confuse this for a cookbook entry; in speech due to the emphasis being placed differently, in writing because it is ‘too wrong’.

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  • 2
    Your explanation of "Um die Grüne Soße zu erhalten, hacken die Kräuter." had me rolling on the floor laughing. – Ralf Kleberhoff Dec 15 '17 at 19:58

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