I'm aware German doesn't have a gerund like the English language does, so I was just wondering how you could translate "being a" as in "being a vegetarian may cause health problems"?

Would "als" work here?

  • 3
    being -> to be -> zu sein
    – Em1
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 21:39
  • 2
    Just for clarification, German does have a Gerund form by making the verb a neuter noun: "sein" ("be") to "das Sein" ("the action of being something or existing"), just for the example here.
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 5:27
  • @ em1: you are missing the cause-notion of "being a"
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 22:33

3 Answers 3


As @Em1 correctly explained

Vegetarier zu sein könnte gesundheitliche Probleme verursachen/ bedingen.

oder flüssiger

Vegetarier zu sein könnte der Gesundheit abträglich sein / schaden.
  • These examples are grammatically correct but unidiomatic. Germans don't typically use "zu sein" gerunds. Active verbs sound better: I'd try "Sich an eine vegetarische Diät zu halten..." or "Als Vegetarier zu leben..." . Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 1:20
  • 3
    I disagree in so far as that your examples are not any better or more common. On the contrary , to me they are more complicated the one of Bummie... If someone wanted to match the succinctness of the English gerund, a German would probably say "Eine vegetarische Ernährung kann zu ... " or more colloquial "Kein Fleisch zu essen...
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 20:11
  • As a native speaker, I don't think the use of "zu sein" is unidiomatic. However, I don't like the „könnte“. I would probably use "Vegetarier zu sein kann der Gesundheit schaden." or "Vegetarier zu sein kann zu gesundheitlichen Problemen führen."
    – cfaerber
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 23:39
  • Noch kompakter: "Vegetarismus kann der Gesundheit schaden" o. "~ kann ungesund sein". Vor allem schmeckt es nicht. ;) Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 1:11
  • Colloquially I would drop the "zu". Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 16:36

In your example "being a vegetarian may cause health problems," you'd need to resort to a different expression, e.g. change the phrase "being a vegetarian" to "to live as a vegetarian" or "life as a vegetarian":

a) |Als Vegetarier zu leben| verursacht möglicherweise Gesundheitsprobleme. 

b) |Das Leben als Vegetarier| ruft möglicherweise Gesundheitsprobleme hervor.

It's a different thing with e.g. "being a chef, he knew how to make lasagna," where you can indeed use "Als X":

|Als Koch| wusste er, wie man Lasagne zubereitet.
  • +1 for the difference between "being a vegetarian" and "being a chef" (or rather the significance of the comma). Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 21:31
  • we can bring the examples even closer together: "Being a vegetarian he knows how to cook tasty stuff with vegetables"... there are different functions of "being a"
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 22:31

Additionally als can be used as you actually purposed.

For instance

Being an office employee, I don't dare to complain about that.

could be like so

Als Büroangestellter wage ich nicht mich darüber zu beschweren.

  • It does not work for the sentence in the question, though.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 1:05
  • @CarstenSchultz right. What I had in mind is the more general question in the title.
    – user5513
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 1:09

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