Unit 13: Extended Adjective Constructions
In Unit 7 we learned how present and past participles can be used as adjectives in German, e.g., ein gekochtes Ei (“a boiled egg” or “an egg that is boiled”) and der singende Vogel (“the singing bird” or “the bird that is singing”). Thus you can see that the participle can be translated with a relative clause beginning with “that.”
German, unlike English, can provide even more extensive information about the noun simply by placing an entire phrase as a modifier before a noun. For example, an entire participial phrase of any length can appear between a noun and its article:
ein in Wasser gekochtes Ei
an egg boiled in water / an egg that is boiled in water
ein in heißem Wasser gekochtes Ei
an egg boiled in hot water / an egg that is boiled in hot water
ein in heißem Wasser gekochtes und dann gegessenes Ei
an egg boiled in hot water and then eaten / an egg that is . . .
The use of such constructions is quite common in scientific and professional literature and, consequently, we must learn how to identify such constructions and how to translate them.
Note in the above examples that there is no finite (conjugated) verb and that the participles have endings, which indicates that they are functioning as adjectives. Thus we are dealing with a phrase modifying a noun, not with a sentence. Note, too, that the introductory word is followed immediately by a preposition, which is one common indicator of an extended adjective construction. Extended adjective constructions using a participial phrase, such as the examples above using the past participles gekocht and gegessen, are the most common type.
For example, the structure of der im Käfig singende Vogel, which uses the present participle singend, can be understood as:
introductory word (article / adjective) +
prepositional phrase +
participial adjective +
To translate this phrase, we link the introductory word with the noun, e.g., der + Vogel, and then translate in reverse order: singende + im Käfig: “the bird singing in the cage”.
Example sentences using participles:
Münchener sind die in München wohnenden Leute.
“Münchener” are the people living in Munich.
[or:] “Münchener” are the people who live in Munich.
Ich habe ein in Stuttgart gebautes Auto.
I have a car built in Stuttgart.