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Q: I got to know the big ape.

My answer: Ich habe den grossen Affen kennengelernen.

Correct answer: Ich habe den großen Affen kennengelernt. (source: duolingo)

Why is it that in this case the second verb got conjugated? I was under the impression that we kept the infinitive form for second verb. The

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  • The word "Affen" (pural of "Affe") is a noun. And in German all nouns are always written with an uppercase first letter. And in German every full statement ends with a full stop (period). I corrected these errors for you. I am very sure, that duolingo did not deliver a sentence with a lowercase noun and without punctation marks. And I am also very sure that duolingo displayed großen not with ss but with ß. If you want to learn German you should learn how to type umlauts and ß. Dec 26, 2021 at 10:35
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    You don't say "I have meet the big ape" in English either, do you?
    – DonHolgo
    Dec 26, 2021 at 11:02
  • @Hubert Schölnast: For future reference, Duolingo is capitalized as well. Also, I thought Affen was the accusative singular, since the plural would be die Affen. Having taken Duolingo myself, I'm not quite as confident about their proofreading habits. But you're right that if people want some thought put into an answers then they should put at least as much thought into the spelling and punctuation of the question.
    – RDBury
    Dec 26, 2021 at 11:03
  • The noun thing was my bad, but it was my lack of knowledge that I didn't write B and the umlauts Dec 26, 2021 at 11:06
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    Some advice on German spelling on an American keyboard: Copy and paste is your friend. For example, look up the word on Wiktionary and copy and paste the word from there. You can type the word directly into Wiktionary using the Deutsch Tilda feature; you have to turn it on first but that shouldn't be hard. If you're getting text from Duolingo or another website then copy and paste from it. Google translate also has tools that allow you to type foreign characters. My spelling in English is already shockingly bad, and without copy and paste my German would be unreadable.
    – RDBury
    Dec 26, 2021 at 11:25

2 Answers 2

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I don't know how far you've gotten in Duo, so it's hard to tell how much detail I can get into without going over your head. The upshot is:

  1. An infinitive verb is, indeed, placed at the end of a simple sentence. It's placed at the end of the clause in complex sentences.
  2. The infinitive is not the only verb form that's not conjugated. There are other forms that look different from the infinitive, but remain the same regardless of the person and number of the subject.
  3. An infinitive verb is not the only form of a verb that can go at the end of a clause.

To get into the details a bit: The form of kennengelernt is the past participle. It's not conjugated according to person so it's a non-finite form. There are three non-finite verb forms in German, the infinitive, the past participle, and the present participle. The infinitive does go at the end of a clause. The past participle goes at the end of a clause when it's combined with another verb as in your example. Past participles can also be used as a type of adjective, in which case they're placed in front of the noun they modify. For example Das Haus hat ein gebrochenes Fenster. -- "The house has a broken window." Here gebrochen is the past participle of brechen. (As I recall, Duo doesn't get into declining adjectives until relatively late in the course, but when used as an adjective the past particle is declined, which is where the -es ending comes from. It's declined according to case and type of noun, not conjugated according to the subject, so it's still a non-finite verb.) Present participles are only used as adjectives and never combined with other verbs, so they're always placed in front of a noun.

Meanwhile, verbs which are conjugated according to person, are placed at the end of subordinate clauses. For example Das ist der große Affe, den ich kennenlerne. -- "That's the big ape that I'm getting to know." In this case den ich kennenlerne is a relative clause, a type of subordinate clause, and the verb kennenlerne goes at the end of the clause here.

The placement of verbs, and which verb form to use when in German is actually somewhat complicated; it depends on the type of sentence, and follows different rules in sentences with more than one clause. You don't have to learn the whole science at once though, and one advantage of using a course like Duolingo is to guide you through the complexities one sentence type at a time. German word order is more flexible than English in general. But German takes verb placement very seriously and if there's any aspect of German grammar that you absolutely must learn to avoid sounding like Yoda, it's where to put the verbs in a sentence.

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  • What reference did you ues when you studied german? Dec 26, 2021 at 11:23
  • @user688539: I did do most of the Duo course, as I mentioned on my bio page. But my philosophy is that no singe course or reference will cover everything, so gather as large and as varied a collection of learning materials as you can. A good place to start is Resources for Learning German You should know that my overall German skills are still pretty weak. I'm something of a grammar wonk so I feel more comfortable answering grammar related questions, but I struggle with other things like listening comprehension.
    – RDBury
    Dec 26, 2021 at 11:43
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It is just a perfect tense. It is very similar to English. For example:

 I have met a big ape.

have + meet = I have met ...

haben + kennenlernen = ich habe ... kennengelernt

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