Here is a sentence taken from one of the responses posted on a German language forum by a senior member. Therefore, I presume it to be grammatically correct:

Die anzunehmen würde dann wahrscheinlich jeder Kellner ablehnen.

I don't get how anzunehmen can come after würde to create such a weird verbal bracket. Shouldn't it be something like:

Die würde dann wahrscheinlich jeder Kellner anzunehmen ablehnen.

  • See german.stackexchange.com/questions/36130/… (that question comes from a different angle: It asked if that word order is possible)
    – Dodezv
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 12:07
  • 1
    Grammar put aside, the sentence is stylistically weird, since annehmen (accept) and ablehnen (reject) are complementary. Most likely the sentence can be rephrased so only one of those verbs remains, but the given context is insufficient to do so.
    – guidot
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 13:45
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    @Guidot: what would be "stylistically weird" with e.g. "Ich lehne es ab, das Paket anzunehmen." and why should such a (IMHO perfectly normal) sentence be rephrased?
    – bakunin
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 7:41
  • @bakunin: Several issues: I did not say, it should be rephrased, but consider Ich nehme das Paket nicht an as an improvement. In your example annehmen and ablehnen address different subjects, which can't be claimed for the example from the question due to lack of context.
    – guidot
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 13:45

2 Answers 2


You may put anything in first position of a main clause.


It becomes the topic of that main clause.

The only condition on that item in first position is that it must be one single item. So you can't put the subject and the accusative object there. Or an adverbial and the dative object or similar.

So let's assume die anzunehmen is indeed one single item. What is it then? It has an infinitive with zu, so it's an infinitive group. Let's use the expletive es in first position and reorder:

  • Es würde dann wahrscheinlich jeder Kellner ablehnen, die anzunehmen.

So die anzunehmen is an infinitive group that tells what any waiter would deny to do.

You may still ponder about that die. What's that? Well, it's a pointing finger, a demonstrative pronoun. A those. Let's translate:

  • Any waiter would likely deny to accept those then.

In lightly germanized English, the original sentence would read:

  • To accept those, any waiter would likely deny then.

~Shakespeare vibes~


"Die anzunehmen" is an infinitive that is used as an object here.

Like in

accepting this order would likely be rejected by any waiter

and is perfectly correct. The word order is somewhat formal and maybe not used in everyday speech, where you would probably use an Infinitivsatz like

Wahrscheinlich würde jeder Kellner ablehnen, die Bestellung anzunehmen.

But your example is perfectly correct as it

  • Puts the infinitive in a valid position for the object
  • The verb is properly located in V2 position

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