How do I choose between two possibilities? Examples:


Nach vielen anstrengenden Wochen bei der Arbeit

and not

Nach vielen angestrengten Wochen bei der Arbeit

Another example:

Ein blondgelocktes kleines Mädchen

instead of

Ein blondlockendes kleines Mädchen


Generally speaking:

  • the "Partizip 1" forms "anstrengend" / "blondlockend" assume that the respective subject "Woche" / "Mädchen" causes a certain effect or exhibits a certain activity. But this is true only for the case of "anstrengende Wochen", it doesn't apply in the latter case. Instead, having blond, curly hair is simply a state. It may be true if you use "blondlockend" in a more creative way, as a conscious, neologistic composition of "blond" and "lockend" in the sense of "luring, tempting".

  • "angestrengt" is a difficult thing. The problem is that you can't use every verb in its Perfect Participle form as adjective. "anstrengen" (in the sense of "Die Woche strengt an / ist anstrengend") is intransitive, since you can't use it in a passive form. Furthermore, it is a durative verb, not a perfective one. It doesn't describe a status change that was finished at a certain moment in the past. Those verbs can't be used in its Partizip Perfekt form.

The problem with "anstrengen" is that it may also have a transitive meaning (in the sense of "einen Prozess anstrengen" - "to file a suit / to bring a procedure / to pursue an action") - you can speak of a "Prozess" who "wurde angestrengt" - a "suit that was filed". So, you'll first have to determine the exact sense and its characteristics as transitive / intransitive. Then, you can tell (usually) if you can use it as adjective in its "Partizip Perfekt" form.

EDIT: Additionally, here's a nice compilation of rules regarding Partizip 1 and Partizip 2: http://www.dsporto.de/ubungen/partizipregeln.htm (in german, sorry...)

  • Das blond lockende Haarspray? Im Sinne von »das Haarspray erzeugt, bei richtiger Anwendung, blonde Locken«?
    – Jan
    Jun 24 '16 at 21:36
  • Wie um Himmels Willen kommst Du jetzt auf Haarspray? Obacht, rhetorische Frage...
    – tohuwawohu
    Jun 25 '16 at 5:54

I would love to present a different example which gets the point across better, because both participles of that verb can be used more or less idiomaticly on the same noun. The verb I am using is fahren.

Das fahrende Mädchen.

As Tohuwawohu pointed out, this is pretty much an active participle. The girl is driving. Actively sitting behind the wheel (or on the saddle in the case of a bicycle).

Das gefahrene Mädchen.

Here, the girl is being driven. Considering the word choice Mädchen, it is likely that she is sitting in the back seat.

Context would further provide what else is happening and why the act of driving/being driven has to be put into a participle.

  • Irgendwie hab' ich "das gefallene Mädchen" gelesen...
    – tofro
    Jun 29 '16 at 17:09
  • @tofro Vielleicht noch schöner; das fallende und das gefallene ;)
    – Jan
    Jun 30 '16 at 11:12

Case 1: Angestrengte Wochen would mean, that the weeks themselves were strained, which misses the point. The weeks were straining to some person, and analogously anstrengend is the word to choose.

Case 2: The girl is blonde and has curls. Solution 1 is correct, blondgelockt could also be substituted by blondlockig. It remains unanswered from this sentence, whether color of hair or its curls are natural or result of styling (even if only the latter strictly justifies the participle). Lockend means in the vast majority of cases alluring, tempting. Blondlockend surely could theoretically mean "creating blonde curls", but the context does not support this idea and it would need substiantial support due to infavourable statistics.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.