How does "zu" change the meaning of the verb when it is inserted in between a word?

A specific example from a 18th century paper:

In der Tat gelang es nicht, auf dem Spectrum eines glühenden Platindrahtes oder des Drummondschen Lichtes die dunklen Natriumlinien durch die Leuchtgasflamme hervorzugerufen, in die Kochsalz gebracht war; aber es gelang mit der Flamme von wässrigem Alkohol, der Kochsalz enthielt.

In the dictionary, hervorrufen is listed, which means to "cause"? What is zu serving here?

Google Translation looks pretty good (as it makes scientific sense):

The absorption of the sodium vapor will be all the more perceptible, the lower its luminosity, that is, the lower its temperature. In fact, on the spectrum of a glowing platinum wire or the Drummond light, the dark sodium lines were not succeeded by the luminous gas flame into which salt was brought; but it succeeded with the flame of aqueous alcohol containing saline.

  • 5
    hervorzugerufen looks like an error. It is certainly not current German. That would be hervorzurufen. Perhaps in the 18th century hervorgerufen was a proper verb. Aug 12, 2018 at 0:26
  • 1
    Rudy is right, it has to read hervorzurufen in contemporary German. Well, why not hervorrufen? Because it's a zu-Infinitiv, not a plain one. I have written something about its use a while ago: german.stackexchange.com/questions/39346/… It's the third case here, the Infinitivsatz.
    – Janka
    Aug 12, 2018 at 5:26
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    Also dunkeln has to read dunklen. Typo.
    – Janka
    Aug 12, 2018 at 5:27
  • @Janka Only true today, 18th century German was quite different and far less strict. Even late 19th century Brockhaus Konversationslexikon is quite happy with dunkeln, größern etc.
    – guidot
    Aug 14, 2018 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


It doesn't change the meaning at all, but is just used in some grammatical contexts automatically (like to in English). In this example the reason is the verb gelingen in the main clause, which requires this construction in the subordinate one.

(It's inserted in the middle of the verb in this case because hervorrufen is separable. Otherwise it would just be zu + infinitive.)

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