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I'm aware German doesn't have a gerund like the English language does, so I was just wondering how you could translate "being a" as in "being a vegetarian may cause health problems"?

Would "als" work here?

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3  
being -> to be -> zu sein –  Em1 Dec 6 '12 at 21:39
2  
Just for clarification, German does have a Gerund form by making the verb a neuter noun: "sein" ("be") to "das Sein" ("the action of being something or existing"), just for the example here. –  Kevin Dec 7 '12 at 5:27
    
@ em1: you are missing the cause-notion of "being a" –  Emanuel Dec 7 '12 at 22:33

3 Answers 3

As @Em1 correctly explained

Vegetarier zu sein könnte gesundheitliche Probleme verursachen/ bedingen.

oder flüssiger

Vegetarier zu sein könnte der Gesundheit abträglich sein / schaden.
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These examples are grammatically correct but unidiomatic. Germans don't typically use "zu sein" gerunds. Active verbs sound better: I'd try "Sich an eine vegetarische Diät zu halten..." or "Als Vegetarier zu leben..." . –  Andrew Cone Dec 8 '12 at 1:20
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I disagree in so far as that your examples are not any better or more common. On the contrary , to me they are more complicated the one of Bummie... If someone wanted to match the succinctness of the English gerund, a German would probably say "Eine vegetarische Ernährung kann zu ... " or more colloquial "Kein Fleisch zu essen... –  Emanuel Dec 8 '12 at 20:11
    
As a native speaker, I don't think the use of "zu sein" is unidiomatic. However, I don't like the „könnte“. I would probably use "Vegetarier zu sein kann der Gesundheit schaden." or "Vegetarier zu sein kann zu gesundheitlichen Problemen führen." –  cfaerber Dec 8 '12 at 23:39
    
Noch kompakter: "Vegetarismus kann der Gesundheit schaden" o. "~ kann ungesund sein". Vor allem schmeckt es nicht. ;) –  user unknown Dec 9 '12 at 1:11
    
Colloquially I would drop the "zu". –  Sebastian Redl Mar 20 at 16:36

In your example "being a vegetarian may cause health problems," you'd need to resort to a different expression, e.g. change the phrase "being a vegetarian" to "to live as a vegetarian" or "life as a vegetarian":

a) |Als Vegetarier zu leben| verursacht möglicherweise Gesundheitsprobleme. 

b) |Das Leben als Vegetarier| ruft möglicherweise Gesundheitsprobleme hervor.

It's a different thing with e.g. "being a chef, he knew how to make lasagna," where you can indeed use "Als X":

|Als Koch| wusste er, wie man Lasagne zubereitet.
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+1 for the difference between "being a vegetarian" and "being a chef" (or rather the significance of the comma). –  Hagen von Eitzen Dec 7 '12 at 21:31
    
we can bring the examples even closer together: "Being a vegetarian he knows how to cook tasty stuff with vegetables"... there are different functions of "being a" –  Emanuel Dec 7 '12 at 22:31

Additionally als can be used as you actually purposed.

For instance

Being an office employee, I don't dare to complain about that.

could be like so

Als Büroangestellter wage ich nicht mich darüber zu beschweren.

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It does not work for the sentence in the question, though. –  Carsten Schultz Feb 26 at 1:05
    
@CarstenSchultz right. What I had in mind is the more general question in the title. –  user5513 Feb 26 at 1:09

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