How to express something like "Art of speaking with strangers" and "Experience of working in a restaurant.." in German?

I just have a vague idea that the bold text have something to do with gerunds but I have no idea how gerunds work in German.

  • 1
    Welcome to German.SE. What are your vague ideas? That woudl be your own effort shown. Thanks. Oct 19, 2021 at 11:38
  • I think that this is a legitimate question, as the answer is a specific non-obvious infinitive construction. Oct 19, 2021 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


There is a construction that goes like this:

NP, X zu Y

where NP is some noun phrase (usually just a noun), Y in an infinitive, and X is a complement of the verb in Y (mostly an object or prepositional phrase). Examples:

Die Kunst, mit Fremden zu sprechen.

Die Erfahrung, in einem Restaurant zu arbeiten.

Die Fertigkeit, Motorräder zu reparieren.

Das gewöhnungsbedürftige Erlebnis, sich selbst von außen beobachten zu können.

(The last example is more complex, with more complements, to show how to extend the pattern a bit.)

The term "gerund" is not usually used in German grammar. This is just an Infinitivkonstruktion.

  • I'm having a hard time adjusting to the usage of infinitives (in place where English employs gerunds) in German. How would I express something like "This place is for buying new books, not for selling old books." in German?
    – Tobey
    Oct 19, 2021 at 11:43
  • 2
    Would translate to "Dieser Ort existiert, um neue Bücher zu kaufen, nicht um alte zu verkaufen".
    – Fabian S.
    Oct 19, 2021 at 11:44
  • Somewhere I have read that the capitalized infinitive is the closest equivalent of gerund in German. Would you please give an example where it is used? Also you have mentioned that gerund isn't usually used in German grammar, does that mean it exists? @phipsgabler
    – Tobey
    Oct 19, 2021 at 12:02
  • 1
    I'd say that nominalized (= capitalized) infinitives are mostly used in Nominalstil sentences, and mainly for subjects. Inflecting them looks "too complicated". Vgl: das Betreten der Wiese ist verboten (sounds like law, but fine) vs. das Verbot des Betretens der Wiese besteht aufgrund ...: still OK in legalese, but das Verbot, die Wiese zu betreten, besteht aufgrund ... is much preferred. The distincion is only stylistic, though -- the meanings are equivalent. Oct 19, 2021 at 12:42
  • 1
    @Tobey You first comment is an additional question, thus you should officially make it a new question.
    – Paul Frost
    Oct 19, 2021 at 22:39

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