Say, in English, we have two events at once in a sentence: He smiled, walking towards the man.

How is this expressed in German? All I can think of is: Er lächelte, gehend auf den Mann zu.

However, this does not seem right. What would be the correct construction of this sentence in German?


2 Answers 2


Er ging auf den Mann zu und lächelte.

Er ging lächelnd auf den Mann zu. / Lächelnd ging er auf den Mann zu

Als er auf den Mann zuging, lächelte er. / Er lächelte, als er auf den Mann zuging.

Während er auf den Mann zuging, lächelte er. / Er lächelte, während er auf den Mann zuging.

  • 1
    Auf den Mann zugehend lächelte er. is the direct translation of the English example. Your examples differ in details.
    – Janka
    Oct 30, 2019 at 1:00
  • 3
    @Janka "Auf den Mann zugehend" is grammatically possible, but I wouldn't consider it as very idiomatic. (Yes, there are nine Google hits for "auf den Mann zugehend"; but if you drop the duplicated ones, only five are left, and at least one of them, possibly three, come from texts that have been translated from other languages to German.) Preserving grammatical constructions in a translation from A to B by all means, even if they sound foreign in language B, is usually a mistake. I alao wonder where you see the semantical differences between the original phrase and my translations.
    – Uwe
    Oct 30, 2019 at 9:49
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    One might feel like adding also colloquial variations. For example: Wie er auf den Mann zuging, war er voll am Lächeln. Oct 30, 2019 at 10:06
  • 2
    @ChristianGeiselmann hast Du den so von Deinem 14-jährigen Neffen übernommen? Grusel Oct 30, 2019 at 10:10
  • Ergänzungsvorschlag: Er ging auf den Mann zu und lächelte dabei.
    – Gerd
    Oct 30, 2019 at 13:28

"He smiled, walking towards the man." literally translates to: "Er lächelte, auf den Mann zugehend." This is the correct structure of the sentence you made: The participle is not split.

Please note that in German, the subject is with the main activity, and the participle denotes the side activity. I'm not sure whether this is the same for English.

The far more common form of this sentence is that "gehen" is the main activity, and "lächeln" will therefore be used in the participle form: "Lächelnd ging er auf den Mann zu."

While I am not an English major, I think "He walked towards the man, smiling." also is the more common form in English, and putting the verbs the other way around transports the same subtle change in meaning.

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