eine von allen echten Demokraten zu begrüßende Entwicklung

Mostly "zu" comes with infinitive or as preposition.

Is the "zu" in the above phrase an adverb?


The zu in zu begrüßen is a part of the infinitive, which is why it can be considered a (verbal) affix, even though it is visually seperated from the verb. Modal participle (gerundivum) constructions as in your example ultimately build upon this zu infinitive, preserving the affix, even though they turn the verb into an adjective (or something similar to an adjective, depending on your preferred grammarian gang).

If you think about it, the fact that the zu in your example stands alone to begin with is simply owing to your choice of verb. Compare: die zu begrüßende Entwicklung / die abzulehnende Entwicklung, where the status as an affix is more obvious.

  • "eine von allen echten Demokraten begrüßende Entwicklung" Is this sentence grammatically correct without "zu"? – ughi tudhi Nov 10 '19 at 12:02
  • 2
    @ughitudhi No. The modal participle is a very special animal, which requires the zu and has a distinct - passive - meaning. Eine von allen echten Demokraten zu begrüßende Entwicklung is a development that the speaker expects to be welcomed by all real democrats. (A simple participle I construction on the other hand would have an active meaning: Eine begrüßende Entwicklung is a development that welcomes, which arguably makes little sense.) – johnl Nov 10 '19 at 12:10

All of the three non-finite forms can be used as adjectives.

1. die Gäste begrüßen ist ihre Aufgabe
2. die Entwicklung ist zu begrüßen
3. die Entwicklung wird begrüßt

And parallel:

1.' die die Gäste begrüßende Dame
2.' die zu begrüßende Entwicklung
3.' die begrüßte Entwicklung

It seems reasonable to assume that zu plays the same role in both cases. Since it can't be separated from the verb, zu and the infinitive should be considered as a single word that just happens to be spelled as two words (as johnl has pointed out).

Cases 2 and 3 have a passive meaning (Entwicklung is a patient, i.e. the thing being welcomed); case 2 also has a modal meaning of obligation (or possibility). Think of the paraphrase:

Die Entwicklung muß begrüßt werden.


eine von allen echten Demokraten zu begrüßende Entwicklung

means that all real democratic people should welcome this evolution.
The construction is like in English X is to be done.
The "zu" in the German sentence has a similar function as the "to" in the English one.

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