How can I express 'I saw sb. doing sth.', 'I find sb. doing sth.' in German? Will the relevant sentence structure be 'Ich sehe jmd. etwas (plus present participle)' or 'Ich finde jmd. etwas (plus present participle)'? For instance, 'I find my teacher writing sth.' would be translated 'Ich finde meinen Lehrer etwas schreibend'?


Quasi 1:1 übersetzbar:

Ich sah jemanden etwas tun.

Seltener, eher in der Vergangenheitsform genutzt:

Ich fand meinen Deutschlehrer auf dem Klo, kotzend.

Dagegen ist

Ich finde meine Bäckerin telefonierend (vor).

ohne das vor ungewöhnlich und betont zu sehr das Finden, als habe eine Suche stattgefunden, was sicherlich nicht gemeint ist.


Gerunds are hard to translate into German because there isn't a German equivalent that is as expressive.

There are 5 different forms of gerunds, but generally they can be sorted into 2 categories:

If the focus of the gerund is on the action of someone doing something it's normally translated with "beim". Example:

"Ich finde meinen Lehrer beim Schreiben eines Textes."

(Attention: verbs after "beim" are capitalized).

Another possibility is adding a temporal clause with "während" to further intonate that the action has been going on for a longer amount of time:

"Ich finde meinen Lehrer während er einen Text schreibt."

But that moves the focus to the temporal clause, which sometimes isn't desired.

However, if the gerund is more about describing the state of an object, it might be more appropriate to translate it using "Partizip Perfekt" clauses. Example:

"I found him lying on the sofa." -> "Ich fand ihn auf dem Sofa liegend."

This is sometimes also done when the activity described by the gerund is not important to the rest of the message.

Taking your original sentence:

"Ich finde meinen Lehrer etwas schreibend."

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