When do we say ZE and when FIR ZE in Luxembourgish

Today we will look at one particular part of the Luxembourgish grammar and this is … how to translate a “to+verb” construction.

When do I use “ze” and when “fir ze”

One word on pronunciation first. The Luxembourgish z is always pronounced like a hard tss.

You can listen to this lesson on the “Luxembourgish with Anne podcast via iTunes.

So there are 3 possibilities to translate a “to+verb” construction. You either use ze, fir .. ze or nothing. These 3 are NOT interchangeable so you need to know when to use which.

When to use nothing

Nothing is used whenever your first verb, the conjugated one, is a Luxembourgish modal verb:
Those are:

kënnen, wëllen, mussen, däerfen, sollen and wäerten

Examples

Ech wëll an de Kino goen. I want to go to the cinema.
Ech muss goen. I must leave.
Mäi Jong ka(nn) schwammen. My son can swim.

And nothing is used whenever your first verb is goen. It is not a modal verb and yet you can connect verbs to it as if it were.

Examples

I go to the supermarket to buy milk:

  • Ech ginn an de Supermarché,  fir Mëllech ze kafen.
  • Ech ginn an de Supermarché Mëllech kafen.

Either of the sentences is correct. Using  fir ze makes it sound like you are telling us the goal you pursue, while the other version sounds more like a simple description of what you are going to do at the place.

When to use “ze”

Use ze  when the first part of a sentence doesn’t make sense for itself and whenever this is the case, to translates to ze.

Examples

Tom tries…    “What???”  Tom tries to learn Luxembourgish everyday. “Ohhhh I see”
Den Tom probéiert, all Dag Lëtzebuergesch ze léieren.

I forgot… “What??” I forgot to turn off my stove.
Ech hu vergiess, mäin Uewen auszemaachen.

I feel like “What??” I feel like to go to the cinema.
Ech hu Loscht an de Kino ze goen.

If you have a verb with a separable prefix, the ze goes in-between the prefix and the stem of the verb.

When to use “fir ze”

Well, in pretty much all other cases (than those mentioned above) you use fir ze.

Examples

I learn Luxembourgish … to pass the language exam.
Ech léiere Lëtzebuergesch …  fir de Sproochentest ze packen.

Here the first part alone does make sense. But there is another way to determine whether it is ze or fir zeWhenever  you can replace the English to with in order to you have to use fir ze

I learn Luxembourgish to pass the language exam.
I learn Luxembourgish in order to pass the language exam.

 

Easy Luxembourgish Level 1
Easy Luxembourgish Level 1

 

So to sum it all up:

Use only ze 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 ze.

Use fir ze when ….

you can replace the English “to” with “in order to”. If you do something
fir ze to 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.

Use nothing at all when …

Your first verb is a Luxembourgish modal verb or the verb goen. The mechanics are similar in English. “I can go” doesn’t use to either.

So this is it. If you have questions email me at anne@glift.lu

Hope you liked it and see you next time.