At the Spielzeugmuseum in Salzburg, there is a sign in front of a play room for toddlers, that has the following sign in German and English –

Herein gekrabbelt!

Crawl on in!

I understand that Herein! on its own can mean “Come on in!”, but I have not seen a past participle used in this fashion. Can someone please explain if there is a general construction being used here?

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    Hereinspaziert, meine Herrschaften!
    – Eller
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 7:56
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    There should not be a space between herein and gekrabbelt. (You could argue that according to the ideas of the "Neue Rechtschreibung" the space is okay, but anyway... good taste would ask for a one-word invitation.) Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 14:19
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    PS: Another expression used quite frequently: hereingeschneit, jemand/etwas kommt/kam hereingeschneit = appeared unexpectedly. Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 14:23

1 Answer 1


"Hereingekrabbelt" is a variation on "Hereinspaziert", which is an informal way of saying, "Come in". (More formal alternatives include "Kommen Sie herein" and "Bitte treten Sie ein".)

The construction is essentially a past participle as a replacement for the imperative ("Ersatzform des Imperativs"). Another example is "Rauchen verboten" ("Smoking prohibited"). Even though this specific example can be interpreted as an elliptic form of "Rauchen ist [hier] verboten", it is clearly an instruction not to smoke.

Other examples of the past participle as a replacement for the imperative were discussed in Why would you use the past participle in commands rather than the imperative?.

The example cited in the question ("Hereingekrabbelt" should be written in one word) has a humorous intent: the building is a toy museum, which attracts many children. Very young children cannot yet walk into the museum ("hereinspazieren", hence "hereinspaziert" from the point of view of the museum), but they can crawl ("krabbeln"); hence "hereingekrabbelt". In other words, the sign says, "Crawl in!" instead of "Come in!".

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    You are totally right. And still, explanation is a joke's death. Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 14:20
  • "krabbeln" is one of a few german words that would translate to "crawl". Both in the sense of a child or insect moving - but NOT in the sense of "crawling in response to defeat", or "creeping", this would be "kriechen". "Herein gekrochen!" would potentially be perceived as a gloating insult :) Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 0:30
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    @rackandboneman Since the museum is in Salzburg, I don't think they translated the sign from English into German ;-)
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 19:12
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    Good answer, although "Rauchen verboten" is not used in the same way as "hereinspaziert". An analogous use would be "Hereinspazieren geboten".
    – Cacambo
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 10:27
  • @Cacambo I did not claim that "hereinspaziert" is used in the same way as "rauchen verboten"; I wrote that "rauchen verboten" can be read as an example of a part participle that is used as an imperative. That is not the same thing. ("Verboten" is a past participle.)
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 11:09

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