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Attempting to translate this sentence from Asimov's, I, Robot,

The government cruiser was making ready to carry the two roboticists back to Earth.

I said,

Das Regierungskreuzfahrtschiff bereitete vor, um die beiden Robotiker zur Erde zurückzutragen.

2 native German speakers corrected me with:

Das Regierungskreuzfahrtschiff bereitete vor, die beiden Robotiker zur Erde zurückzutragen.

But DWDS has many examples of the use of um with vorbereiten. So why was my translation wrong?

1 Answer 1

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"vorbereiten" is a transitive verb. You have "der Kreuzer bereitet etwas vor", and the thing that is being prepared, an action, is described by an infinitival construction. With "um" you rather get an adverbial clause, describing a goal of an action. But you want to describe the action itself.

Anyway, the translation is still not idiomatic German. Better: "machte sich bereit" (+ zu-Inf.)

Concerning the dwds attestations: if you use "vorbereitet sein", this is a stative passive in which the object is gone, it corresponds to the reflexive verb: "ich bereite mich vor". Here you can add an "um"-Adverbial. But the meaning is "I am doing something, as a preparation, in order to be able to do another thing." (I do not find this very plausible for your example.)

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