German Gym – Work your “zu… um… zu”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: March 17, 2022

Hello everyone,

and welcome to … well to… to our newly opened gym.
Pumpin’ German till your grammar-abs are rock solid.
Over the years, I have developed a fair amount of exercises of different kinds to train the most important issues of German Grammar.
And then, today, I thought, well I do have all these pdf-files sitting on my hard drive slowly collecting dust… why not share them? So share them I will.

And the first one is going to be the one for

“zu vs. um zu”  

If you don’t know the rules yet… here is the article, I wrote on that…. it is long, it is meandering and boring and it is theoretical, so it is just what you love, isn’t it ;)

The exercise is designed for repeated use… so you do NOT need to fill in the blanks nor do you need to turn to page 213 and hold the book upside down to check for the solutions (god, that is something that really annoys me in work books… I do NOT want to flip pages all the time)
Anyway… the solutions are given on the right so all you need to do is to cover them and you can train with the paper all the time… on the train, on the job or on the toilet. And if it turns out the latter lacks that certain paper you need to much, well, you have a paper right in your hand :) and German Grammar actually saved your day.
Now… here is how the page works. You will be given a first part of a sentence, for example:

  • Ich gehe zum Kühlschrank,

The second part, the completion, will be given in the dictionary or infinitve form. Here is how it looks on the page.

  • Ich gehe zum Kühlschrank                    :                         ein Bier holen.    , um… zu…

The sentence is obviously supposed to mean:

  • I go to the fridge to get a beer.

And you have to decide whether you need to use zu, um.. zu  or nothing at all.
The correct choice in the example is um… zu, so after you have moved all the verbs into their place you should wind up with:

  • Ich gehe zum Kühlschrank, um ein Bier zu holen.

Now the page is not wide enough to give the fully formulated solutions, so you will only see what form (zu, um zu, nothing) to use and not where the verb goes or how zu squeezes between a prefix and a basic verb.
But after all, it is an exercise to get a feeling of when to use which, so I hope it is helpful anyway. Oh… to make the training extra beneficial, read everything out loud and do it WITHOUT writing it down.

So.. here it is, have fun and give me some feedback, if that helped you or if you have question regarding the exercise.

Exercise – zu – um zu (pdf)

And for those of you who need one, here is a quick heads up on the rules.

Use um zu when:

  •  you can replace the English to with in oder to. If you do something
    um zu do something else, that means that you do the first thing so
    you can do the second thing after. Doing the first thing is a
    prerequisite of doing the second.
  • Ich gehe in die Küche um mir ein Beer zu holen
  • I am going to the kitchen to (in order to) get myself a beer.

Use only zu when:

  • You cannot replace to by in order to. To double check, ask yourself whether you can enter a room just saying the first part of the sentence and then leave. If the people in the room would be extremely confused by that… use zu. “Ich gehe in die Küche” is fine. The following not so much “Fuck, I forgot.”… what????? So here zu is what you need.
  • Scheiße, ich habe vergessen, meinen Herd auszumachen.
  • Crap,  I forgot to turn off my stove.

Use nothing at all when:

  • Your first verb is a GERMAN modal. The mechanics are similar in English. “I can go” doesn’t use to either. The only stumbling block is that German modal are different verbs than English modals. The German modals are:
     können, wollen, müssen, sollen, dürfen, möchten, mögen
  • Ich will ein Eis essen.
  • I want to eat an icecream.

These are the basics. For the complete set of rules…. here again the link to the article… good luck.

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