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I have been practicing the "Konjunktiv II mit Modalverb". It all seemed straightforward, simply use "hätte" + infinitive and modal verb at the end:

Ich hätte früher nachfragen sollen.

Until I met this example in my textbook:

Du hättest früher anfangen sollen zu packen.

Why is "zu packen" at the end rather than "sollen"?

Is the following incorrect and if so why?

Du hättest früher anfangen zu packen sollen.

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Using the infinitive 'zu' construction can be a little difficult to grasp. The best way to think of it is substituting an object of the sentence for a verb which has no subject - but it also has some special grammatical rules associated with it too.

Du hättest früher anfangen sollen zu packen.

This is completely correct, because it's fine to move an infinitive to the VERY end of a sentence, almost as if it is its own clause.

Du hättest früher zu packen anfangen sollen. / Du hättest früher zum Packen anfangen sollen.

Also completely correct.

It's important to think of the infinitive as its own unique and independently standing object/subject, not really as a verb anymore.

Du hättest früher anfangen (zu packen) sollen.

This doesn't quite work because you can't treat infinitive 'zu packen' as a verb which goes in the place of a verb, but instead treat it as an object with the special property that it may go to the very end in this sentence.

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    zum Packen anfangen is Southern German. In the North, people would say mit dem Packen. – Janka Feb 24 '18 at 10:12

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