Is it possible to use verbs after verbs with prepositions?

For example: Ich denke an essen.

Or does this kind of sentence has to be made with nouns?

For example: Ich denke an das Essen.


2 Answers 2


Well, yes and no.

It is possible, but in this case the verb is considered a noun (substantiviert in German) and therefore capitalized even if there is no article:

Ich denke an Essen.

This is unusual (normally one would use an Article and write Ich denke ans Essen) but valid. Because of the capitalization it is impossible to distinguish das Essen (the meal) from the substantivated verb essen (to eat).

Usually, infinitives used as nouns are preceded by an article, but this doesn't have to be always the case. Another example:

Zu schnelles Fahren ist verboten.

Note that infinitives following zu are a special case because an infinitive after zu is still a verb: Es ist verboten zu rauchen.

There are ambiguous cases where an infinitve can be considered a verb or a noun, as in:

Rad fahren ist verboten.


Radfahren ist verboten.

which is both valid, but here we have no preposition.

  • 5
    The part with "Zu schnelles Fahren ist verboten" is kind of confusing because it contains the word "zu" and is followed by a statement regarding infinitives with "zu" but that is unrelated to the "zu" in "zu schnelles Fahren" since it is "zu schnell" and not "zu fahren" (thought both are possible on there own or together - "zu schnell zu fahren"). You should clarify that.
    – hajef
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 13:10
  • "This is unusual (normally one would use an Article and write Ich denke ans Essen)" - is it? Maybe it's just me, but "Ich denke an Essen." sounds quite usual to me, and evokes the picture of mountains of food. I do indeed associate "Ich denke ans Essen." with the activity of eating, whereas "Ich denke an das Essen." sounds more like it refers to a food-related event (a banquet etc.) to me. Commented May 27, 2019 at 9:00

Yes it's possible even though it may appear strange or incomplete. But it is used in german language.

Your examples describe something different, which indicates both versions have a reason to be used.

  • Ich denke an Essen (Essen = substantivated verb) = I'm thinking about eating.
    This refers to eating as action.
  • Ich denke an (das) Essen = I'm thinking about (the) food.
    This refers to an object.

Edit: Now that RHa's answer has arrived I assume the form "think about the procedure of eating" is the substantivated verb and should be capitalized. I must admit I am not sure how to write this correctly.

  • 1
    I disagree, I parse Ich denke an Essen equal to Ich denke an Golf, nicht Golfen, also Ich denke an Geld, indefinite, uncountable, not definite das Geld and neither countable Gelder, die Gelder (equally Gold, which doesn't have a plural that I'm aware of, or Sand, where the plural Sande means kinds of sand). Essen is a special case, because it is inherently ambiguous, there is no eating without food-stuff (and vice-versa, by definition; you don't think of theice cover of a lake as food for example).
    – vectory
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 22:29
  • 1
    Conversely, "das Essen" is the instance of a specific meal (which is ambiguous in translation, too).
    – vectory
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 22:32
  • @vectory "I parse ... equal to ..." - ok you parse it that way but one can not only think of objects (noun) but also the process of doing something which focuses not on the object involved but on the action itself that is derived from the verb. This is not very common to say as I mentioned and indeed is ambiguous - but it know expressions like that. Where do you see the difference between "Golf" and "Golfen" except that in this case "Golf" is the uncommon version? Why the "Geld" example? Why do you mention plural? Neither the question nor my answer has anything to do with plural.
    – puck
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 5:51
  • 1
    It depends on the intended message. You can translate "eating* or food, but eating always implies to eat food unless you have an eating disorder. It's really a bad example and Golf is the first that came to my mind. The plural is notable because "ich träume von [s/S]anden" is ambiguous (nevermind that it is absurd). However the question was about the prepositions. There are verbs that don't have a corresponding noun, and I'd argue in that case a construction with prep. + zu-infinitive were prefered. I am notably not writing an answer, just criticizing yours :P it's a wicked problem
    – vectory
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 12:54
  • 1
    Be aware that I'm thinking about eating. is a very common sentence structure in English, which would best be translated into German by Ich denke daran, zu essen. !
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 7:21

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