I just had a small confusion regarding a simple phrase. If I want to say "It starts to smell" which one is correct? and why?

Es fängt zu riechen an.

Es fängt an zu riechen.

I'm interested in a grammatical explanation regarding which of these parts of speech have the right to precede the other. I'm more inclined to think that the first one is correct since the separable prefix should come last but I googled both phrases and got numerable results. Also, Google Translate gives the second as correct so I'm confused.

  • 1
    Related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/34714/… And probably many more.
    – Carsten S
    May 28, 2018 at 9:18
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    Both sentences are correct, but the second one is way more common. No one would generally use the first one – this is just used in older German texts.
    – tavkomann
    May 28, 2018 at 15:12
  • I see, so from a grammatical standpoint both the dependent infinitive and the separable prefix have equal claim to the same position then?. May 28, 2018 at 17:56
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    @EvilRacehorse Yes, they have.
    – tavkomann
    May 28, 2018 at 18:01
  • Thank you very much, then I assume this question is settled. May 28, 2018 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


As it turns out, both a separable prefix and the dependent infinitive can have equal claim to the last position in a sentence. So, both versions are considered correct, even though the second one is way more common

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