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Why is it correct to say:

Ich habe das machen lassen müssen.

Why is it not correct to say:

Ich habe das müssen machen lassen.

2 Answers 2

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This is just how infinitives work in German.

  • Ich habe müssen. / Was hast du müssen?
  • Ich habe lassen müssen. / Was hast du lassen müssen?
  • Ich habe das machen lassen müssen.

The "main" infinitive comes last, the verbs that further clarify its meaning come before it.

This is completely analogous to how everything else works: Anywhere that you have an infinitive, the infinitive comes last, then everything that further clarifies the meaning of the infinitive comes before it. For example: Ich muss morgen früh aufstehen. This principle doesn't change just because there are more infinitives.

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Here's a quick and easy rule you can follow. The order of verbs is exactly the opposite than in English. Let's look at a dependent clause first, because it's the regular one in German.

Du weißt, dass ich heute das Feuerwerk funkeln sehen gehen will.

You know that I want to go watch the fireworks sparkle today.

In the main clause, the V2 rule adds another complication. The finite verb is moved from the very end to second position. All other verbs stay where they are.

Ich will heute das Feuerwerk funkeln sehen gehen.

I want to go watch the fireworks sparkle today.

This works as well for your example. It's a bit more complicated though because machen lassen collapes into a past participle in English, as English prefers passive voice in this kind of expression. Also, müssen translates into to have to in this context.

Ich habe das machen lassen müssen.

I had to have it made.

And, for completeness, the Perfekt of modals adds another complication, this time in German. The combination of the auxiliary haben and the modal Ersatzinfinitiv calls for a different position of the auxiliary in dependent clauses.

Du weißt, dass ich das habe machen lassen müssen.

Do you see it? Habe goes in front of the infinitives row instead of the very end, where it would go with normal Perfekt with a Partizip II. The order of infinitives does not change.

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