I know, that in perfectum sentence containing modal verb, the order of words looks something like this :

Ich habe nach Hause gehen wollen

My question is, how do I order words in perfectum sentence, when it contains multiple verbs, but none of them is modal ? Is it the same case as with modal verbs ? Something like :

Ich habe deutsch lernen beginnen
  • 2
    It's Ich habe Deutsch zu lernen begonnen -- or, more common: Ich habe begonnen, Deutsch zu lernen Commented May 8, 2020 at 20:16
  • Thanks for answer. Commented May 9, 2020 at 6:17
  • 1
    Side note: ich habe Deutsch lernen begonnen can be acceptable in colloquial speech, but not in written form. Commented May 9, 2020 at 7:43

1 Answer 1


Note that we have to distinguish between monoclausal and multiclausal structures. Monoclausal structures occur with:

  • temporal auxiliaries (haben, sein plus past participle; werden plus infinitive)

  • modals (modal verbs plus infinitive)

  • passive auxiliaries (for instance werden plus past participle)

  • and combinations thereof.

In monoclausal structures, the order at the end is as follows:

als das Haus gebaut3 worden2 ist1

In order to talk about order, it is useful to give each verb a rank, starting with the finite verb at rank 1. In the above example, the perfect auxiliary ist (rank 1) governs the passive auxiliary worden (rank 2), which governs the past participle gebaut (rank 3). Yet the order is exactly the opposite: 3-2-1, i.e. in monoclausal structures the order is descending.

Some additional examples:

ob man das Problem lösen3 können2 wird1
dass die Steuern gesenkt3 werden2 müssen1

However, there are also multiclausal structures, where the embedded clauses are called Infinitivkonstruktionen. These always involve zu-infinitives. The hallmark of these structures is that the lowest ranked verb, together with all its dependents, can occur in the Nachfeld (extraposed). In the following examples, I have used a vertical bar | to indicate where one clause ends and the other one starts.

seit ich begonnen2 habe1 | Deutsch zu lernen3
obwohl er versprochen2 hat1 | das Problem zu lösen3

In contrast to the auxiliaries involved in monoclausal structures, verbs allowing Infinitivkonstruktionen usually introduce some kind of lexical meaning: anfangen etc.; versprechen, befehlen, bitten etc.

  • I suspect that the OP is at a level at which he cannot with certainty tell what that mean applied to his example.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 9:32
  • Typical show off answer - hardly understandable even for native speakers, explaining nothing really, mildly interesting for linguists at most. The "lowest ranked verb"? Good luck to any learner trying to make sense of that explanation.
    – Olafant
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 10:58
  • @Olafant Thank you for the kind words.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 10:59
  • @DavidVogt Sorry, but I think it's really frustrating and even more confusing for someone who is trying to learn German.
    – Olafant
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 11:03
  • 1
    @Olafant I see two options: (i) constructive criticism, (ii) writing another answer.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 11:06

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