In English, we have:

  • Perfect participle clause

    • Example: Having washed her hair, Susi picked up the blow dryer and scissors.
    • Translated to German: Die Haare gewaschen, griff Susi zu Föhn und Schere.
  • Present participle clause

    • Example: Holding the hairdryer in her left hand, Susi cut her hair on the right.
    • Translated to German: Den Föhn in der linken Hand haltend, schnitt Susi sich rechts die Haare ab.
  • Past participle clause

    • Example: Worried by the news, she called the hospital.
    • Translated to German: ???

What is the right way to construct Past Participle clauses in German? (if there is at all)

The power of participle clause is that it makes sentences more compact (no repeating of the subject). Feel free to suggest alternative ways to achieve the same goal in German language.

Other similar examples that I don't know how to properly translate: "I'm running scared", "He came fully equipped with weapons".

--UPDATED 05.06.2021---

I agreed with Hubert Schölnast that such structures are not commonly used in german language. But sometime I come across such instances, and it leaves me baffled, wondering if it is actually "past participle clause - german version". For example, those are real texts from german media outlets:

  • Bundesbürger erhalten ihre Testnachweise direkt aufs Handy geladen.
    • English: Citizens receive their test evidence, directly downloaded to the phone.
  • Du willst bis zu 1069 Euro vom Finanzamt zurückerstattet bekommen?
    • English: You want to receive up to 1069 Euro, refunded from the Finance agency?

3 Answers 3


Better you don't try to copy grammatical features from one language to another. Better you try to learn to use a new language like native speakers. No German native speaker has English Grammar in their mind when they produce German sentences.

The two German sentences in your questions are correct, but unusual. German native speakers normally don't use such constructions. More common alternatives are:

Mit gewaschenen Haaren griff Susi zu Föhn und Schere.
Mit dem Föhn in der linken Hand schnitt sich Susi die Haare auf der rechten Seite ab.

And the third sentence is

Sie rief im Spital an, weil sie wegen der Nachricht besorgt war.

But there are many possible translations, and which is the best depends strongly on the context which you didn't provide. Was it news she saw on TV? Or was it news addressed personally to her?

  • Schade, dass wir in Deutschland nicht Spital sagen :(
    – choXer
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 9:52
  • @choXer: Ihr sagt das nicht? Sagt ihr Krankenhaus dazu? Steht bei euch auch »Krankenhaus« auf den Verkehrszeichen, die man vor Spitälern aufstellt? (Zeichen unter Ziffer 2 des § 53 StVO) Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 21:03
  • Ein vergleichbares Verkehrsschild haben wir nicht und wenn Krankenhäuser ausgeschildert sind, steht dort tatsächlich Krankenhaus.
    – choXer
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 21:45

Here are some translations that are close to the original.

"Worried by the news, she called the hospital."

"(Von den Nachrichten) besorgt rief sie im Krankenhaus an." or "Besorgt (durch die Nachrichten) rief sie im Krankenhaus an."

Although, if somebody told her the news personally, you would probably leave out the parts in the parentheses. And yes, in Germany we always say and write "Krankenhaus".

"I'm running scared."

"Voller Angst renne ich weg." or "Ich renne voller Angst davon."

Note here, that when you say in German that you are running, it is not at all clear that you are running away. So the word "away" usually should be there. Here the word "scared" should already make it clear, but it still sounds weird, if you leave out the "away".

"He came fully equipped with weapons."

"Er kam komplett mit Waffen ausgerüstet." or "Voll mit Waffen ausgestattet kam er an." Although it sounds better to say something like: "Er erschien bis an die Zähne bewaffnet." (He appeared armed to the teeth.)

However, I have to agree to this "think German - not English" strategy. It is always a good idea trying to say it like one would in the target language.

I once jokingly said: "In German usually you only use a few tenses in everyday life. You can use present tense for everything in the present and the future. Furthermore present perfect can be used for everything in the past. You just use additional words like "now", "before" and "tomorrow" to make the exact tense clear. Future perfect is only used by people planning a bank robbery. Past perfect is only used by news anchors. Most of the rest can be expressed with adverbial and conditional constructions." The latter are colloquially quite adventurous themselves.


Normal participle clauses

German participle clauses work pretty much the same way as in English, which is not surprising since the two languages are closely related.

So the participle clauses you were not sure about can be easily translated into German participle clauses:

  1. Besorgt über die Neuigkeiten rief sie das Spital an. (Worried by the news, she called the hospital.)
  2. Ich renne erschrocken. (I'm running scared.)
  3. Er kam voll mit Waffen ausgestattet. (He came fully equipped with weapons.)

Participle clauses with an auxiliary

A difference between English and German is that participle clauses involving auxiliary verbs should be avoided in German. This concerns sentences like your first example:

  1. Having washed her hair, Susi picked up the blow dryer and scissors.

In that sentence, the participle clause does not only have the verb “washed”, but also the auxiliary “having”, which gives the clause an active meaning. Theoretically, this could be translated directly into German:

  1. Die Haare gewaschen habend, griff Susi zu Föhn und Schere.

Strictly speaking, that translation may be grammatical, but it is very unidiomatic and clumsy to a point that I expect most native speakers would reject it. For expressing activity, you would much rather use a subordinate clause:

  1. Als Susi die Haare gewaschen hatte, griff sie zu Föhn und Schere.

Note that your translation without an auxiliary does not really work. Without the auxiliary, the past participle «gewaschen» has a passive meaning:

  1. Die Haare gewaschen, griff Susi zu Föhn und Schere.

This would correspond to the following English sentence, which is just as questionable:

  1. Washed her hair, Susi picked up the blow dryer and scissors.

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