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I have come across this sentence on a German movie.

Ich habe chronologisch ordnen lassen.

To english, it translates as,

I ordered them chronologically

It sounds like it is supposed to be the Perfekt tense. So, shouldn't it be "gelassen" instead of "lassen" here?

Thanks in advance

marked as duplicate by Takkat Mar 1 '18 at 8:39

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    @Takkat: Hier geht es nicht um einen Ersatzinfinitiv. Das wäre in diesem Beispiel der Fall: »Ich habe (die Akten) chronologisch geordnet (ge)lassen.« Hier kann »gelassen« durch den Infinitiv »lassen« ersetzt werden. In dem Satz aus der Frage ist das aber nicht möglich. Der Satz »Ich habe chronologisch ordnen gelassen.« wäre schlichtweg falsch. Außerdem bedeuten die Sätze »Ich habe etwas geordnet lassen« und »Ich habe etwas ordnen lassen« völlig verschiedene Sachverhalte. Daher ist die vorliegende Frage kein Duplikat der verlinkten Frage. – Hubert Schölnast Mar 1 '18 at 9:47
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    @HubertSchölnast: the question was: shouldn't it be "gelassen" instead of "lassen" here? which is identical to the duplicate question I linked to (of course the example there is different). There was no question regarding the use of ordnen. If the answer on the dupe did not answer their present question user268569 is free to edit their question to say so and flag their question for reopening. This will then make additional answers possible. – Takkat Mar 1 '18 at 10:07
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Your translation is wrong, but you are right, the tense is »Perfekt«.

This german sentence is quite unique, because the mandatory accusative object is missing. It is from the movie »Das Leben der Anderen«, spoken at 1:59:12. Normally you have to tell what is arranged, but from the context in this scene it is clear, that the files (»die Akten«) are arranged. Normally it would be seen as a grammatical error to omit this accusative object, but in this situation it is so obvious, that you can make an exception.

But this missing object doesn't affect your question. But anyway, its better to analyze the complete (i.e. grammatically correct) sentence.
So here it is:

Ich habe die Akten chronologisch ordnen lassen.

Now learn, that

Ich habe ... lassen

(in Präsens: »Ich lasse ...«) is

I let ...

So the correct translation is:

I let the files arrange chronologically.

(In English present tense and past tense are equal.)

This means: It was not me who arranged the files, but I gave the order to someone else to arrange them, and my order was executed. (I let someone else do it for me.)


If you use »gelassen« instead of »lassen«, you also have to replace »ordnen« by »geordnet«. But this changes the meaning of the sentence:

Ich habe die Akten chronologisch geordnet gelassen.
I left the files in chronological order.

This means: The files already was in chronological when I found them, and I didn't change this order. i.e. I did nothing. Neither did I arrange them nor did I give the order to arrange them. I just left them how they was.

  • English should read: I let (someone) arrange the files chronologically. because it's not the files doing something. – Janka Mar 1 '18 at 10:02
  • Thank you for the info, so if I understood this correctly, when it comes to some verbs (modal and those that do not express action itself) we should use infinitive instead of the past participle? – Evil Racehorse Mar 1 '18 at 23:37

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