There are a few verbs that accept infinitives, such as "müssen", "wollen". Some other verbs need a direct object before the infinitive, such as "lassen" (e.g. "Ich lasse meine Haare schneiden.").

But the sentences below baffled me in understanding its structure and meaning:

  • Wo ich im Haushalt helfe, ach Gott kochen tu immer ich.
  • Wäsche waschen mach ich nicht so gerne.

I believe they should have used "tue" and "mache" but in spoken language, they tend to drop the final "e". But my main concern is the structure "tun/machen + infinitive".

Is it similar to the structure in english "I do eat vegetables."? Is it also implied that the speaker wants to emphasize things? If not, then what does it mean?

According to Verlaufsform, "tun + infinitive" is used in Bavaria, and is unfortunately not considered correct in Standard German. I found no information regarding "machen + infinitive"; is this even grammatically correct?

  • Actually, it is Wäschewaschen, i.e., a composite noun: „(Das) Wäschewaschen mach(e) ich nicht so gerne.“ And in the first sentence, there is a comma missing: ach Gott, kochen ... versus ach, Gott kochen ... – Björn Friedrich Dec 23 '20 at 12:59
  • Yes, it's regional or archaic but the examples you've gave us have nothing to do with the progressive/contineous tense. So, the judgment at "Verlaufsform" is irrelevant for them. – Ben A. Dec 23 '20 at 13:45

The structure of the two sentences is completely different.

Tun + infinitive is a heavily stigmatised combination that however, in the given sentence, fulfils a simple and in my view completely legitimate purpose: By adding the meaningless auxiliary tun, the main verb can be topicalised, i.e. put in first position.

An example from a prestigious newspaper:

Die Fed versuchte sich mit einer kleinen Senkung aus der Affäre zu ziehen und diese als eine Anpassung mitten in einem (Zinserhöhungs-)Zyklus zu verkaufen. Glauben tut das nicht jeder: […] faz.net

The meaning is not different from the variant without tun (with the exception of the effect of the topicalisation of the main verb). There is no emphasis of the act, as in English do believe, nor is there an aspectual distinction involved. (This might be different in dialects; it is unfortunate that the Wikipedia article Verlaufsform does not have any references in that regard.)

Moving on to the second case, machen cannot generally combine with an infinitive.* What might look like a combination of machen with an infinitive is actually an infinitive being used as an object (noun-like). Note the following contrast:

*Waschen mach ich Wäsche nicht so gern.
*Wäsche mach ich nicht so gern waschen.


Waschen tu ich Wäsche nicht so gern.
Wäsche tu ich nicht so gern waschen.

The contrast arises because tun + infinitive (like any combination of a verb with the infinitive of another verb) allows the object of waschen to be split form its governing verb. The infinitive used as an object (noun-like) with machen, however, cannot be split from its own object Wäsche.

When I say noun-like, I do not mean the same as conversions of the type lesen > beim Lesen, where lesen changes part of speech. Rather, in instances such as the one you gave, a whole verb phrase is in toto taken as a noun. Another example, with a whole verb phrase taken as a noun and functioning as a subject:

Immer nur arbeiten macht auch keinen Spaß.

Or, with the verb phrase containing an object:

Bestellkarte einlegen macht auch wieder Extraarbeit. (Fallada)

*The exception are old-fashioned causatives of the form der Kasus macht mich lachen (Goethe).

  • I couldn't describe it better. – Ben A. Dec 23 '20 at 13:48

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