1. Seite öffnen - Open the page
  2. Öffne die Seite - Open the page (present tense imperative?)

The same applies to:

  1. Fenster schließen - close the window
  2. Schließe das Fenster - close the window (present tense imperative?)

What am I missing? If I understand correctly they both have the same meaning, but I couldn't find a grammar rule for the first sentence in each section. What is it called? Why we use infinitive there?

Can you please explain the difference between these two examples?

1 Answer 1


The two phrases do not have the same meaning.

The first, "öffnen", is the infinitive. It just describes in an abstract way the act of opening. It is also not a complete sentence but may form part of one, as in Fenster schließen spart Heizkosten.

The second, "öffne", is the imperative. It expresses an order or wish, addressed to another person, to perform that act. As such, it is a complete sentence.

In English, imperative and infinitive are spelt the same, so native English speakers often aren't aware that these are distinct grammatical functions. It is also a common difficulty in translating from English to German to decide whether a given occurrence of a verb should be rendered as an infinitive or as an imperative.

  • 1
    I'd call Seite öffnen an "impersonal imperative", a form that does not exist in English. There's no rule in linguistics that a language must be limited to one imperative form; German happens to have two and they're used in different circumstances.
    – RDBury
    Dec 21, 2021 at 9:53

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