Using Participles as Adjectives

Two Types of Participles

A participle is a specific form of a verb. In German, there is the present participle and the past participle.

The present participle is always used as an adjective and describes what the noun is doing right now.

The past particle is normally used to construct the perfect, past perfect, or passive, but it can also be used an adjective. When being used as an adjective, the past participle expresses what the noun has already done or had done to it..

Examples::

Present Participle: „Das weinende Kind ist in der Küche.“ (the kid is crying right now)

Past Participle: „Das gestohlene Auto ist hier.“ (the car was stolen)

You can find more information about both the present participle and past participle on their respective pages.

The Present Participle as an Adjective

The present participle tells you what the noun is doing at the moment (while the other action - the conjugated verb - is also going on). This is just like the "-ing" form of the verb in English.

  • „Das Kind lacht und spielt im Garten.“
  • „Das lachende Kind spielt im Garten.” - "The laughing child is playing in the garden."

When it comes before a noun, it has to be declined (just like every other adjective).

Examples:

  • „Die Hund steht vor der Tür und bellt.“
  • „Der bellende Hund steht vor der Tür.“ - "The barking dog is in front of the door."
  • „Der Hund steht bellend vor der Tür.“  -"The dog stood in front of the door barking."
  • „Die Frau schreit und rennt aus dem Haus.“
  • „Die schreiende Frau rennt aus dem Haus.“  -"The yelling woman ran out of the house."
  • „Die Frau rennt schreiend aus dem Haus.“ - "They woman ran out of the house yelling."

The Past Participle as an Adjective

The past participle, when used as an adjective, signals that the noun has a certain status/condition or describes an action that already occurred. This is done in English with the "-ed" ending.

  • „Ich verkaufe das Auto.“ „Das Auto ist gebraucht.“ (using the past participle as a verb in the construction of the status passive)
  • „Ich verkaufe das gebrauchte Auto.“ (using the past participle as an adjective)

Examples

  • „Die Frau ist gebildet und Professorin.“
  • „Die gebildete Frau ist Professorin.“ - "The educated woman is a professor."

= Before she became a professor, she was educated.


  • „Ich kaufe das Haus. Es ist neu gebaut.“
  • „Ich kaufe das neu gebaute Haus - "I bought the newly renovated house."

= Before I bought the house, it was renovated.

Quick Tip!

Present Perfect as Adjective: Things happen simultaneously.

  • „Der herunterfallende Apfel ist grün.“
  • Der Apfel fällt herunter.“ „Der Apfel ist grün.“

Past Perfect as Adjective: Things don't happen simultaneously.

  • „Der heruntergefallene Apfel ist grün.“
  • Der Apfel ist heruntergefallen.“ „Er ist grün.“ (one comes before the other)

Related Topics:

A detailed explanation of the rules for adjective declension.

An overview of what you have to pay attention to when dealing with adjectives in general.

Adjective declension depends on whether there is a definite articleindefinite article (including possessive determiners or the negative article), or no article at all (the zero article) in front of the adjective.

The ending is determined by the case: nominativeaccusativedative, or genitive.

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