I thought the verb brauchen is a zu-construction verb, but in this context why does it have to be "zum Lieben" not "zu lieben"? Any explanations why it's like that?


Ich brauche eine Frau zu lieben

would mean I need to love a womanif it were correct; however, in this sense brauchen is only used for negation. The right sentence would be, I believe

Ich muss eine Frau lieben


Ich brauche eine Frau zum Lieben

means I need a woman to love.

Using zum + infinitive expresses purpose and means "for" or "to"

Meine neue Schuhe sind gut zum Rennen (=My new shoes are good for running)

Sein Kaffee ist noch zu heiß zum Trinken (=His coffee is still too hot to drink)

Dieses Feld ist groß genug zum Fußballspielen (=This field is big enough for playing soccer)

Note: The verb/infinitive is being used as a noun and as you know, nouns are capitalized in German, so that's why it's zum Lieben not zum lieben.

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    Note however, that while ich brauche eine Frau zu lieben would mean what you say here if it was correct, it is not. The verb brauchen is used in this sense only in negations. – Carsten S Dec 30 '13 at 10:43
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    Oh goodness, brauchen is becoming my least favorite verb. What verb would you use there? My guess is *müssen." So, "Ich muss eine Frau lieben." and if you wanted to say you do not need to love a woman, you'd say "Ich brauche nicht eine Frau zu lieben"? – thekeyofgb Dec 30 '13 at 10:53
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    @thekeyofgb: Basically yes, although "Ich brauche nicht eine Frau zu lieben" is bad style. Better say "Ich brauche eine Frau nicht zu lieben." or "Ich brauche keine Frau zu lieben." (although the meaning is not exactly the same). – PMF Dec 30 '13 at 10:57
  • So would the nicht be in the same place for müssen -- "Ich muss eine Frau nicht lieben" or would it be "Ich muss nicht eine Frau lieben" – thekeyofgb Dec 30 '13 at 11:03
  • Ok! I got out my grammar reference and figured it out, insofar as I can tell – thekeyofgb Dec 30 '13 at 11:12

Brauchen is first and foremost a regular verb that takes an object (noun, pronoun).

Ich brauche eine Frau.

It can be used in a zu-construction, if and ONLY if it is put into the negative. Whether or not the "zu" has to be there is matter of debate in contemporary German.

Du brauchst nicht zu brauen.

You don't need to brew.

Without the negative, brauchen can NOT connect with infinitives directly or via "zu".

Ich brauche zu lieben.

is wrong. Hence, you need to "nounify" the verb lieben and that's why it is "zum".

  • What about this construction to express things like "I need to go there": "Ich brauche es, dorthin zu gehen" (or for the original example, "ich brauche es, eine Frau zu lieben"). Would this also be incorrect/bad style? – persson Dec 30 '13 at 17:29
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    @karoshi Maybe I wasn't clear enough... it is NOT possible to connect "brauchen" with an infinitive if there is no "nicht" involved. – Emanuel Dec 30 '13 at 17:38

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