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Is it possible to place a zu+infinitive construction at the beginning of a sentence? Can all zu+infinitive sentences can be reordered this way, or is there a condition?

Ex:

Es ist wichtig, regelmäßig Sport zu treiben.

Regelmäßig Sport zu treiben ist wichtig.

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In short, all kinds of infinitives can go into the first position, I am not aware of any restrictions. There are distinctions between different types of infinitival constructions, and they behave different with respect to other positions in the clause, esp. the Nachfeld (the position after the verb-final position). But with respect to the first position, all these differences do not matter.

Some zu+Inf constructions are in fact subordinate clauses. Your example is of that type: "weil es wichtig ist, Sport zu treiben" (subordinate clause separated from the rest). It is perfectly normal to use a clause in the first position. Other infinitives are a part of the complex predicate, e.g. "dass es zu regnen scheint" (but not: "dass es scheint, * zu regnen"). Still, you get "Zu regnen scheint es nicht", just as easily.

Likewise, simple infinitives (without "zu") and verbs in the "participle" form (also a type of infinitive) can occupy the first position: "Lachen kann er darüber nicht." - "Gewonnen habe ich nicht." (Examples from Dudengrammatik (2022), p.58. They likewise do not mention any restrictions there).

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  • There is one kind of sentence parts that cannot go to first position: modal particles. But that's the only one I know of.
    – RHa
    Commented Jun 9 at 14:57

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