Lernt zu zuhören
Lernt zuzuhören

Which version would correctly communicate the message "learn to listen!" given that zuhören is a separable verb? Or are they both false?

  • Only the latter (zuzuhören) is correct. Sorry I can't give you a more well-founded answer. Jun 8, 2020 at 9:01
  • 3
    Note that lernt zuhören is also possible.
    – David Vogt
    Jun 8, 2020 at 9:08

1 Answer 1


This is correct:

Lernt zuzuhören.

This is wrong:

Lernt zu zuhören.

The verb zuhören is a separable verb (correct: »Ich höre dir zu.« Wrong: »Ich zuhöre dir.«). And this means, that "zu" can not be used as a separate word, but must be squeezed between the prefix and the stem.

Another example (yes, it's constructed, but still valid):
The German verb "zupfen" means "to pluck" or "to pick". But you also could imagine to pluck on a tiny curtain of a doll house to close it. For that you could use the verb "zuzupfen" which maybe could be translated as "to pluck to close something" or maybe even "to close-pluck" (I know, that this is bad English, but in German this is possible):

Usage as normal infinitive (together with a modal verb):

Ich möchte den Vorhang zuzupfen.
I want to close-pluck the curtain.

But this verb is a separable verb:

Ich zupfe den Vorhang zu.
I close-pluck the curtain.
(word-by-word translation with German grammar: "I pluck the curtain close.")

And now you can use this separable verb in the construction "zu + Infinitiv":

Ich versuche den Vorhang zuzuzupfen.
I try to close-pluck the curtain.

The 1st "zu" in "zuzuzupfen" is the prefix of the separable verb that means "to close". The second "zu" is from the construction "zu + Infinitiv" and appears as "to" in the english translation, and the 3rd "zu" is part of the stem "zupfen" ("to pluck").

(Word-by-word translation with English words but German grammar: "I try the curtain close-to-pluck")

  • Für „lernen, die Tür zuzuschließen“ wäre die Schriftform wohl lesbarer ausgefallen ;)
    – Wolf
    Jun 8, 2020 at 10:49
  • +1 for zuzuzupfen
    – miep
    Jun 8, 2020 at 12:38

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