Ich öffne den Kühlschrank.
Der [zu öffnende] Kühlschrank.

I have an object, which is required for Gerundiv.

Ich schreibe auf das Blatt.

What happens when I use a prepositional object? Is it possible?

?Das [auf zu schreibende] Blatt.

Does the preposition turn into a Konjunktionaladverb, "darauf", which refers to the Blatt itself.

?Das [darauf zu schreibende] Blatt.

Or is Gerundiv not possible with verbs that have a prepositional object, in general?

Now, if you argue that "schreiben" is not transitive, then I am sorry for my useless examples; But I would be grateful if you could give a verb that actually requires a prepositional object, to see if my confusion holds up. Thank you.

2 Answers 2


The German Gerundiv in attributive usage can only be formed from a transitive Verb, that is, a verb with an accusative object.

So with the verb schreiben it can be used only if the verb is used with an accusative object, for example:

Der zu schreibende Brief

But one cannot do this if schreiben is used with a prepositional object:

*Das [auf/darauf/worauf] zu schreibende Blatt - all incorrect

If a Gerundiv is to be used, you must use a transitive verb. For example:

Das zu beschreibende Blatt

It should be remarked that the Gerdundiv often makes a sentence appear very formal. Because of this, a subordinate clause is often more natural:

Das Blatt, auf das zu schreiben ist


Das Blatt, auf das geschrieben werden soll

  • You restrict it to Akkusativ objects, but how about the dative object example which Janka gave below your answer? Apr 30, 2023 at 14:19
  • I would consider 'helfen' an exceptional case. With respect to the Gerundiv, 'helfen' can be treated as a transitive verb, despite taking only dative objects.
    – RHa
    May 1, 2023 at 8:10

You can't make a Gerundiv from an adverbial. That makes no sense because an adverbial does not describe an action. But the Gerundiv does. It tells what has to be done or cannot be done.

Now, if you argue that "schreiben" is not transitive,

Yes, exactly. Let's make it transitive so you can see how the adverbial magically becomes a part of the noun phrase:

Ich schreibe den Text auf das Blatt. – der auf das Blatt zu schreibende Text

So you need an accusative object that becomes the noun of the noun phrase. It does not work with a lone prepositional object either.

Sie wartet auf den Zug. — no Gerundiv possible

That is because that verb has no object that could be the noun of the Gerundiv noun phrase.

If there's both an accusative and a prepositional object, the Gerundiv is about the accusative object:

Er bittet seinen Freund um einen Gefallen. — sein um einen Gefallen zu bittender Freund

For dative verbs, it's extra tricky because the Gerundiv phrase must retain the dative case. So you can only use it as a dative object, dative adverbial, or dative prepositional object.

Er hilft seinem Freund. — Er steht seinem zu helfenden Freund zur Seite. Er bleibt bei seinem zu helfenden Freund. Er erzählt mir von seinem zu helfenden Freund.

And don't mistake adverbial accusatives for accusative objects either:

Er wartet den ganzen Tag auf den Zug. — der ganze auf den Zug zu wartende Tag

While you could build such Gerundiv noun phrases, they are all nonsensical because the adverbial accusative is not the object of that action, as nothing can be done to it. It's a duration during which the action happens. Not its object.

And finally, don't mistake accusative objects for adverbial accusatives:

Sie wartet den ganzen Tag ab. — der ganze abzuwartende Tag

That verb has an event or duration as its accusative object. You can tell that it is an accusative object from the passive voice:

Von ihr wird der ganze Tag abgewartet.

(Yes, you could even say Sie wartet den ganzen Tag den ganzen Tag ab. One is the accusative object, one an adverbial accusative. The Gerundiv noun phrase is der ganze den ganzen Tag abzuwartende Tag.)

  • You do a direct comparison like Er bittet seinen Freund um einen Gefallen. — sein um einen Gefallen zu bittender Freund. However, the sentence you are comparing to does not seem to have the same modality, or does it? Would it not require to be "Er soll seinen Freund um einen Gefallen bitten."? Apr 30, 2023 at 14:15
  • I copied your example and thought you would make the extra steps in your mind.
    – Janka
    Apr 30, 2023 at 16:39
  • If you want more insight, compare e.g. er hat seine Medizin zu nehmen — he has to take his medicine. This is phrased exactly the same in German and in English, almost literally, and no modal verbs are involved. Now German has this extra Gerundiv construction which makes a passive voice noun phrase from it and puzzingly employs the otherwise active Partizip I (not II) for it: die von ihm zu nehmende Medizin. In English, you can't do that.
    – Janka
    Apr 30, 2023 at 16:42
  • 1
    This is also the reason why you need an accusative object. Because the accusative object becomes the subject in passive voice. You can even see how the original subject er becomes the adverbial von ihm in the Gerundiv construction, just like in the passive voice sentence: von ihm wird seine Medizin genommen.
    – Janka
    Apr 30, 2023 at 16:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.