Considering the following examples:

  1. Ich brauche etwas zum Lesen.
  2. Ich hoffe, die Prüfung zu bestehen.

The 1st example refers to the whole action as a noun (zum Lesen = zu + dem + Lesen). If adding an object for the verb after zu, one ends up with 2nd example (die Prüfung zu bestehen). Those structures are very common; however, I just saw the example below:

  1. Die hat dann was zum Geld verdienen gesucht.

I thought it should have been "Die hat dann (et)was gesucht, Geld zu verdienen". However, this new structure is more compact; I don't know how it is grammatically called. What is it then? (I tried "Infinitivgruppen/Infinitivsätze", but couldn't find similar examples).

Can I apply the same structure, e.g. "Ich brauche eine Lampe zum Buch lesen" (of course, I can also express it in a familiar way: "Ich brauche eine Lampe, (um) ein Buch zu lesen"), or this special "zum Geld verdienen" structure is fixed and should be learned by heart?

In addition, it looks to me, das Geld verdienen can be used as a whole noun group. Can I make a sentence like "Das Geld verdienen ist zeitaufwendig"?

Lastly, based on my limited understanding, the above structure in german language is similar to those in english:

  1. To play online-game is time-consuming.
  2. Playing online-game is time-consuming. / Online-game playing is time consuming.

Is that correct?

If so, in english, we can sense a possibly slight difference between those: in 4., the activity hasn't yet happened (maybe I'm planning on playing games in the future); in 5. the activity is already taking place (I'm playing online-game at this moment, or at present). Could we subtly express this slight difference in german? E.g "Geld zu verdienen ist zeitaufwendig" and "Das Geld verdienen ist zeitaufwendig".

1 Answer 1

  • Die hat dann was zum Geld verdienen zum Geldverdienen gesucht.
  • Ich brauche eine Lampe zum Bücher lesen zum Bücherlesen.
    (Buchlesen is also correct, but Bücherlesen seems more idiomatic to me.)

The pattern is the same as in your first example sentence, where Lesen is a noun that results from nominalizing the verb lesen:

  1. Ich brauche etwas zum Lesen.

The tricky thing with multipart verb phrases, such as Geld verdienen or Bücher lesen, is that the result of nominalization is a compound noun:

  • (das) Geldverdienen  =  (das) Geld  +  (das) Verdienen
  • (das) Bücherverdienen  =  (die) Bücher  +  (das) Lesen

(Here, Verdienen and Lesen are nouns that result from nominalizing the corresponding verbs.) Notice that compound nouns are written as one word and must be capitalized in German, that is, "zum Geld verdienen" and "zum Bücher lesen" are grammatically not correct.

Another possibility is to use an infinitive with zu like in your second example sentence:

  1. Ich hoffe, die Prüfung zu bestehen.

If you reformulate the above sentences accordingly, you get:

  • Die hat dann was gesucht, um Geld zu verdienen.
  • Ich brauche eine Lampe, um Bücher zu lesen.
  • On Google, the phrase "zum Geld verdienen" returned 461k results while "zum Geldverdienen" onle gave 97.4k. Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 10:33
  • 1
    It's not about grammar but orthography.
    – RHa
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 20:32
  • @RHa, whether something is a verb or a noun is a matter of grammar, isn't it? Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 20:35
  • @JoyfulPanda, this is a telling example that shows why you shouldn't trust Google. Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 20:41
  • I just read this sentence in a german textbook: "Zeit opfern heißt Zeit investieren." Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 13:06

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