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In a previous topic “um zeal zu + Infinitive” I explained how you can make a sentence in German using two or more verbs without conjunctions by using the preposition “zu”. Apart from using the preposition, lassen can be used with an infinitive to obtain the same effect.

Content in this post
1. Five different meanings and use of lassen
2. How to use lassen + Infinitive
3. Lassen in perfect tense
Table of content for lassen + infinitive

Different meanings and use of lassen

The German verb “lassen” is a main verb under the category of strong verbs (unregelmäßige Verben). It is one of the few special verbs the German language has. This is due to it‘s numerous characteristics which include having two forms of Partizip II (lassen and gelassen) and being used with other infinitives without the preposition “zu”.

With regards to context, lassen can have a variety of meanings both in German language as well as when translated to English. Originally, lassen means “to leave” in English but when used with other infinitive verbs, it is best translated as “to let” and has up to five different contextual meanings as seen below.

1. To not take something along

GermanLiteral translation
1. Janet lässt ihre Tochter zu Hause bleiben.

2. Warum lasst ihr das Auto meistens im Garage stehen?

3. Lassen Sie bitte jede private Sache zu Hause bleiben.
Janet is letting her daughter stay at home.

Why do you guys mostly let the car stand in the garage?

Please let every personal thing remain at home.
First meaning of lassen

2. To forget/ leave something back (behind)

1. Warum lässt du immer dein Handy zu Hause liegen?

2. Sabine und Jakob lassen oft ihre Jacke im Büro liegen.

3. Ich lasse den Schlüssel zu Hause auf dem Tisch stehen.
Why do you always leave/forget your phone back at home?

Sabine and Jacob often forget/leave their jacket back in the office

I am leaving the key at home on the table.
Second meaning of lassen

3. To allow or not allow something

The meaning of lassen here describes what you allow or permit or disallow. In other to disallow something, it must be negated with the particle “nicht”. For example;

Allow / DisallowTranslation
1. Frau Meier lässt ihr Kind (nicht) im Schwimmbad schwimmen.

2. Viele Arbeitgeber lassen ihre Arbeitnehmer manchmal (nicht) von zu Hause arbeiten.

3. Ich lasse meine Tochter (nicht) mit meinem Handy spielen.
Frau Meier do (not) let her child swim in the swimming pool.

Many Employers (don’t) let their employees work from home.

I am (not) letting my daughter play with my cellphone.
Third meaning of lassen

4. To not do something by yourself

This usage of lassen is a form of passive voice.

GermanLiteral Implication
1. I am getting vaccinated against polio.

2. Max has his cell phone repaired.

3. You have the letter written.
I am letting someone else (a doctor) vaccinate me against polio.

Maxis letting someone repair their cell phone.

You are letting someone write the letter.
Fourth meaning of lassen

5. To make an imperative (command or request)

In this case, lassen is used together with other verbs as an alternative for the wir-imperative form of german verbs. Here, the du imperative form (lass) of it is used and supported by the first-person plural direct object pronoun (uns) to mean “let us” while the other verb goes to the end of the sentence in its infinitive form. They both have similar meaning in English but that with lassen sounds better and is most often used. For example, see the comparison between “wir-imperative” and “lassen + infinitive imperative”.

Lassen + Infinitive imperativeWir-imperative
1. Lass uns jetzt zur Schule gehen!
(Let us go to school now)
1. Gehen wir jetzt zur Schule!
(Let us go to school now)
2. Lass uns am Abend zusammen essen!
(Let us eat together in the evening)
2. Essen wir am Abend zusammen!
(Let us eat together in the evening)
3. Lass uns mit dem Bus nach Berlin fahren!
(Let us go to Berlin with the bus)
3. Fahren wir mit dem Bus nach Berlin!
(Let us go to Berlin with the bus)
Fifth meaning of lassen

Lassen in Perfect tense.

Lassen as a strong/unregelmäßige Verben, forms it’s Partizip II (a key component in forming the perfect tense) with “ge” but when there is another verb (an infinitive) in the sentence, it loses the prefix “ge”. So, instead of the usual haben + gelassen, it becomes haben + lassen. For example;

Perfect without “ge-“Perfect with “ge-“
1. Max hat sein Handy reparieren lassen.

2. Hast du dein Handy zu Hause aufladen lassen?
Max hat sein Handy gelassen.

Hast du dein Handy zu Hause beim Aufladen gelassen?
Sentences in perfect tense with haben + gelassen/lassen

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