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I'm trying to figure out how to refer to a verb that was used earlier within a sentence. In English, the type of behavior I'm trying to capture can be demonstrated in the following sentences.

I washed the dishes because she did not.

I play chess and she does too.

I jumped into the water after they did.

They ran away but I could not.

Based on my intuition and some searching online for possible answers, the possibilities I've come up with are that the verb could be dropped, like in English, or that it could be replaced with tun. Applying this to the example sentences gave me:

Ich habe das Geschirr gespült, weil sie nicht (getan) hat.

Ich spiele Schach und sie (tut) auch.

Ich bin gesprungen ins Wasser, nachdem sie (getan) haben.

Sie sind weggelaufen, aber ich konnte nicht (tun).

I would like to know if either or both of these options are correct. If so, are there other ways to accomplish the same grammatical function and if not, what is the proper way to do so?

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    Every sentence misses an 'es' to refer back to the activity of the previous main sentence: "Ich habe das Geschirr gespült, weil sie es nicht (getan) hat". Dec 3, 2022 at 9:26
  • @planetmaker That makes sense. Was it correct that it's grammatically correct both with and without "tun" once "es" is inserted?
    – Kirk Fox
    Dec 3, 2022 at 9:36

2 Answers 2

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I'm pretty sure that in German you can get away with not putting anything in there in most of them. The verb tun is used much more rarely in German than "do" is in English, and you can probably omit such a verb if it's basically a placeholder for something already known. The grammatical jargon for this phenomenon is "ellipsis", and it allows you to drop elements from a clause which are implied by context. For example, just say Ich spiele Schach und sie auch. The verb spielen is implied and so just dropped. What can be dropped in an ellipsis depends on the language and can be difficult to define in terms of a set of rules. In Kurt spielt die Gitarre, und Johann das Klavier, English and German both agree that the verb spielen/"play" does not need to be repeated in the second clause, even though the clause is technically ungrammatical without it. In your examples, English requires a placeholder, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you need one in German.

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I washed the dishes because she did not.

I play chess and she does too.

I jumped into the water after they did.

They ran away but I could not.

kann übersetzt werden mit:

  • Ich spülte das Geschirr, weil sie es nicht tat.
  • Ich spiele Schach und sie auch.
  • Ich sprang ins Wasser, nach ihnen.
  • Sie liefen weg, aber ich konnte nicht.

Mit dem Hilfsverb tun wird oft ein es nötig:

  • Ich spiele Schach und sie tut es auch.
  • Ich sprang ins Wasser, nach dem sie es taten.
  • Sie liefen weg, aber ich konnte es nicht.

Satz 1 hatte schon ein es, daher hier eine Alternative ohne Hilfsverb:

  • Ich spülte das Geschirr, weil sie es unterließ.

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