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Die Einrichtung von sogenannten Biosphärenreservaten in Deutschland wurde durch die UNESCO angeregt, u(m) Regionen zu kennzeichnen, die im Zusammenwirken von Mensch und Natur beispielhafte und innovative Wege gehen und die durch ihre Nachhaltigkeit hervorstechen.

In the exercise, we are asked to fill in deleted text. So here, in the above question, the "m" was deleted, and I had to fill in the appropriate word. I wrote "nd".

But, that's wrong and "um" is appropriate. Could someone explain why and any tips to figure out if it's um or und when doing such exercises.

In English, perhaps due to my lack of ability or not, I don't know, but I feel that both makes sense.

"um..." and also "und..."

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    I'm confused. This text is on a level where you shouldn't be struggling with um vs und anymore. Where does this text come from?
    – Olafant
    Nov 30, 2023 at 4:24
  • Mut zur Luecke B2-C1. The text itself is understandable. I still have poor basics, that's why @Olafant
    – Babu
    Nov 30, 2023 at 5:10

5 Answers 5

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It is true that strictly speaking, both "um" and "und" make sense here on a grammatical level. The reason why "um" has to be chosen is because the variant with "und" does sound rather weird.

As various other posters seem to think "und" would be ungrammatical here, let's expand the relevant parts of the sentence a bit:

Die Einrichtung von sogenannten Biosphärenreservaten in Deutschland wurde durch die UNESCO angeregt, u(m) Regionen zu kennzeichnen

We need only this part. Anything that follows afterward further specifies which regions we are talking about, which is irrelevant for the sentence structure at this point.

If we insert "und" in the above sentence, at first glance, the part after "und" is not a complete sentence: "Regionen zu kennzeichnen"

However, this in itself is not sufficient to discard "und": Incomplete sentences frequently indicate that there is some ellipsis at work, usually of a part of the sentence that would otherwise appear twice. A simple example would be:

Ich gehe Brot kaufen und Fische angeln.

"Fische angeln" certainly isn't a complete sentence, but it becomes one by connecting it to the - mutually used - first part of the sentence:

Ich gehe Brot kaufen
und
ich gehe Fische angeln.

Now, word ordering in the two partial sentences can be varied independently:

Brot gehe ich kaufen und Fische angeln.

This is still correct - but note that I perceive this as a slightly stilted and/or old-fashioned way of putting the statement.

However, the above sentence could be interpreted to work the same way. From that viewpoint,

Durch die UNESCO wurde die Einrichtung von sogenannten Biosphärenreservaten in Deutschland angeregt und Regionen zu kennzeichnen.

could be expanded to

Durch die UNESCO wurde die Einrichtung von sogenannten Biosphärenreservaten in Deutschland angeregt
und
durch die UNESCO wurde angeregt, Regionen zu kennzeichnen.

Now, while I think such an ellipsis is grammatically valid, we see that the structures of the two sentence parts do not match as nicely as in the above example. The fact that one occurrence of "angeregt" goes with a noun phrase (which, in the sentence as given, is placed before "angeregt") and the other one with a "zu"-infinitive verb phrase (which is placed after "angeregt") makes the sentence with the ellipsis sound awkward, like badly written text.


This is why "um" is the more likely choice here - while both "und" and "um" would make sense grammatically, only "um" does not make the sentence sound off.

The other reason why "um" is to be preferred is that it makes more sense semantically - the described "Einrichtung von Biosphärenreservaten" and the "Kennzeichnen von Regionen" are not two separate events, but the latter is the objective of the former. Therefore, establishing the intention with "um" is a reasonable assumption.

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  • Your example misses the point: "Brot kaufen" is (grammatically) the same as "Fische anglen" and the general rule is that "und" can join two equal things, as I explained in the other thread: german.stackexchange.com/questions/75838/…. You can join two dependent sentences ("Es war, was ich meinte und was ich sagte") and two main sentences ("Ich gehe Fische angeln und ich gehe Brot kaufen") but not a main and a dependent sentence.
    – bakunin
    Nov 30, 2023 at 22:31
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    @bakunin: I think you should read the rest of my answer where I point out the structural difference. With that said, the difference is not as large in this case as in your example, as we're looking at two joined main clauses whose predicate and actor-indicating durch-object ("Durch die UNESCO wurde ... angeregt") match. Dec 1, 2023 at 1:55
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    Could you explain this ". The fact that one occurrence of "angeregt" goes with a noun phrase (which, in the sentence as given, is placed before "angeregt") and the other one with a "zu"-infinitive verb phrase (which is placed after "angeregt") makes the sentence with the ellipsis sound awkward, like badly written text."
    – Babu
    Dec 1, 2023 at 3:14
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    @planetmaker: "one cannot interrupt an enumeration of identical things by the closing verb form which relates to both parts before and after" - that appears to mean the sentence "Ich habe Suppe gegessen und Brot." is ungrammatical, which I don't think is the case. Dec 1, 2023 at 6:11
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    Kleine Frage eines Schreibers, der zu Kommafehlern neigt: Würde die Ellipsenthese nicht erfordern, dass das Komma vor dem UND wegfällt? Dec 2, 2023 at 23:53
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This problem is not so much a grammatical but a semantical one. And, no, your suggestion that

In English [...] both makes sense.

is not the case. I'll come back to that later.

Let us start with basic comprehension:

Die Einrichtung von sogenannten Biosphärenreservaten in Deutschland wurde durch die UNESCO angeregt

I had to look up the translation of "Biosphärenreservat" (according to Wikipedia it is "nature reserve", I'd have guessed "biodiversity reservate"), but this is secondary here. Some sort of reservate it is and that is enough for our purpose:

UNESCO suggested the installation of so-called nature reserves in Germany

So, this is a whole sentence. If what comes next is connected with "und" it would have to be a whole sentence too. Like, for instance:

Ich gehe in die Stadt und du kaufst eine Hose.
I go to the city and you buy trousers.

"Ich gehe in die Stadt" and "du kaufst eine Hose" are both sentences in their own right and could stand alone too. They might be connected with "und" to suggest/imply a connection: while I go to the city you spend the same time buying trousers.

Next, what does the following part of the sentence mean?

Regionen zu kennzeichnen, die [...]

mark regions which ...

What follows is just detailing, which regions exactly are meant. We don't need it for our purpose.

Look at the sentence: does "Regionen zu kennzeichnen" - "mark regions" - look like a complete (main) sentence to you? Perhaps not - because it isn't. So, "und" cannot join the two parts. They are not both main sentences. Trying "um" [(in order) to], we see a possibility: the marking of regions is a device to achieve the goal mentioned in the main sentence before:

Die Einrichtung von sogenannten Biosphärenreservaten in Deutschland wurde durch die UNESCO angeregt, um Regionen zu kennzeichnen [...]

UNESCO suggested [...] (in order) to mark regions [...]

There you have it: the second part is connected to the first in a final relationship: one is done to achieve two.

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"Um...zu" is a common construct that is used to justify the infinitive. The combination of conjunction ("um") and particle ("zu") is needed to create a valid subclause ("Infinitivsatz") from the infinitive.

"Und" wouldn't be able to do that - the infinitive has no reason for a German native speaker, and wouldn't form a valid subclause.

In addition to that, the "um...zu + " construct denotes a causal corelation (the target outcome for the action) between the main clause and the infinitive and translates along the lines of "...in order to...". A simple "und" would lose this notion.

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Grammatically speaking, I agree with O. R. Mapper's answer. However, doing exercises usually isn't simply about correctness, but about teaching something. In this instance, the question one is supposed to ask oneself is: what licenses the zu-infinitive, what type of infinitival clause is this? Is it (i) an adverbial clause introduced by one of um, ohne, anstatt or is it (ii) an object clause, which do not have a subordinating conjunction?

The answer to (i) is obviously yes, so the correct answer is um. The answer to (ii) is no: the matrix verb anregen already has an object die Einrichtung von …, so an interpretation as an object clause is out for the purpose of the exercise (although it is grammatically possible).

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In this sentence, the word "und" doesn't fit grammatically, and it doesn't make sense. Could you explain why you think it could be correct?

With "um", the sentence means

"UNESCO suggests the creation ..., in order to declare regions ...".

With "und", the sentence is something like

"UNESCO suggests the creation ..., and declares regions ...".

Maybe this works in English, similar to "try and do", but in German, it doesn't.

The first part is the suggestion and contain to actual action in the noun ("Die Einrichtung"), the second part explains why. A connection with "und" could work if the structure of the parts is more similar, but then it would be more instructions what to do and lack the reason why it should be done:

UNESCO regt an, Biosphärenreservate einzurichten, und Regionen zu kennzeichnen.

It still sounds strange, and implies two different suggestion, but at least the grammar fits better.

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  • @userunknown Yes
    – RalfFriedl
    Dec 3, 2023 at 0:59

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