The order in the following sentence is ok, right?

(1) Ich glaube, dass er seine Hausaufgaben früher hätte machen können.

Why is it so and not as the following variant?

(2) Ich glaube, dass er seine Hausaufgaben früher machen können hätte.

The principal (conjugated) verb is hättest.

  • Why isn't it at the last position?
  • Does (2) have a different meaning, or is it just wrong?

1 Answer 1


It is a special case: The sentence contains an Ersatzinfinitiv of a modal verb (namely, können instead of gekonnt) and the auxiliary verb haben. Such a construction requires that the auxiliary is moved in front of the other verbs; version (2) is ungrammatical. (Machen hätte können sounds slightly less bad, but still odd.)

See canoo on verb clusters in final position of a subordinate clause for specific other cases where both positions are possible.

  • Beim Satzroulette hätte ich "hätte früher machen können" gesagt.
    – Takkat
    Oct 6, 2013 at 15:42

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