I came across the following sentence in Der Spiegel:

Speziell wandte sich [Hillary] Clinton auch an ihre Unterstützerinnen: Ihnen sagte Clinton, sie sollten wissen, dass sie nichts stolzer mache, als dass sie ihre Vorkämpferin habe sein dürfen.

As I understand it, the last portion of the above sentence can be translated as follows:

... that nothing makes her more proud than the fact that she could have been (or had the honor of having been) their standard bearer.

Can habe sein dürfen be replaced by a simpler tense in the above sentence?

Also, what’s the name of the tense, in which habe sein dürfen is used above?

  • 1
    Someone has the original english speech where Spiegel derived from?
    – Thomas
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:11
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    The correct unpoetic translation would be: "Ich möchte euch wissen lassen, daß mich nichts stolzer gemacht hat, als eure Anführerin gewesen zu sein."
    – Thomas
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:38
  • 1
    @Thomas I also linked it in my answer. (Eugene, there must not be a space between @ and the username of the person you want to ping or it will not register ;) However, the auto-pinging settings probably pinged Thomas, anyway.)
    – Jan
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:39
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    @Thomas Wie kommen alle von champion auf Anführerin/Vorkämpferin?
    – Jan
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:39
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    The strange translation is a original from Reuters by the way.
    – Thomas
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:40

2 Answers 2


The tense of the construction habe sein dürfen is the perfect tense in conjunctive I mood; it uses an Ersatzinfinitiv rather than the more systematic sein gedurft habe — which, as a side note, sounds horrible to my ears. In indicative mood, it would probably be transformed into a preterite form in a newspaper:

Nichts macht mich stolzer, als dass ich eure Vorkämpferin sein durfte.

The speech in video form and a transcript can be found on hillaryspeeches.com. I suspect the passage in question is the following:

And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

Translated, the part behind the colon could read:

Ich möchte, dass ihr wisst, dass nichts mich stolzer machte, als euer Champion zu sein.

Since this is a newspaper article, it will use reported speech which requires finite verbs to change to conjunctive I wherever possible. That renders as:

Sie sagte, dass nichts sie stolzer gemacht habe, als ihr Champion zu sein.

Note that it doesn’t require a dürfen nor a habe. The full verb machen, however, changed from indicative to conjunctive.

Possibly, the newspaper decided to restructure the sentence altogether and add an additional full verb (here dürfen) to overcome any issues with pronouns. If they had left it in the way I suggested, potential ambiguity arises whose champion Hillary considers herself to be (her own?).

  • 1
    @CarstenS How true, I totally overlooked that!
    – Jan
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:47
  • Some small addition to Jans answer: The use of this special construct in the translation is a typical poetic style which sounds even more gentle than simpler forms, expressing the honour and pride of have been in this role of the champion. From my point of view the horrible translation from the original text is meant to further underline Clintons distance from normal people. In fact the original text is rather simple: "I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion."
    – Thomas
    Nov 10, 2016 at 21:00
  • @Thomas Yeah, the original text is quoted and linked in the answer ;)
    – Jan
    Nov 10, 2016 at 21:02
  • I am asking me if it is really a "conjunctive" and if it is which one really? Do you have references explaining this?
    – Thomas
    Nov 10, 2016 at 21:10
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    @Thomas, „habe“ ist Konjunktiv I.
    – Carsten S
    Nov 10, 2016 at 21:13

sie habe sein dürfen is Konjunktiv II of sie durfte sein.

Sein durfte is the same in indicative mood. I think indicative is also more appropriate here, as Clinton indeed was a Vorkämpferin — the fact she lost doesn't change that.

Remember what Mark Twain said about German newspapers. That was 130 years ago. Nothing has changed.

  • »Mache dich niemals mit einer Sache gemein; auch nicht mit einer guten«, ist ein alter Journalistengrundsatz. Dieser wäre im Indikativ verletzt.
    – Jan
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:31
  • Es ist die Wiedergabe einer Aussage Clintons. So wie sie da steht kann man sie in den Indikativ setzen, denn sie hat diese Aussage auch im Indikativ getätigt.
    – Janka
    Nov 10, 2016 at 21:17
  • Indikativ verlangt Anführungszeichen; es wurde entschieden auf Anführungszeichen zu verzichten, ergo Konjunktiv.
    – Jan
    Nov 10, 2016 at 21:19

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