This sentence appears in Isaac Asimov's, I, Robot:

She whirled about to see her triumphing companion emerge from hiding and make for the home-tree at full speed.

Now, "triumphing" is a very unusual English word in which Asimov has convert the verb "to triumph" to an adjective conferring an ongoing changing state on the noun.

Two questions: 1) how to translate this sentence, and 2) in general, how does one create such an adjective in German, that is not a fixed state, as would be "triumphant (triumphierend)" in this case, but reflects an ongoing changing state, "triumphing"? Or is this possible at all in German?

1 Answer 1


The Englisch word »triumphing« in »her triumphing companion« is not an adjective! It is a participle. More precise: It is the present participle of the verb »to triumph«.

Participles live in a realm between verbs and adjectives. In some manner they belong to both worlds, but they are still different from verbs and adjectives. And for this reason participles are often counted as separate kinds of words.

Participles are forms of verbs that behave like adjectives.

And participles do not only exist in English, they also exist in German, and they are not rare. They are used very frequently in German language. In German we have the verb »triumphieren« and the present participle has just 1 letter more at the end: »triumphierend«. So we use the very same construction in German:

Engl: her triumphing companion
Germ: ihr triumphierender Gefährte

Verbs can not be used as attributes of nouns, but adjectives and participles can. And when a word is used as attribute of a noun it has to be declined, this is where the additional ending -er comes from in the example above.

And here is the translation of the complete sentence:

Sie wirbelte herum und sah, wie ihr triumphierender Gefährte aus seinem Versteck auftauchte und in vollem Tempo auf den Hausbaum zukam.

You claimed in your question that the English word »triumphant« (which is a proper adjective) would translate to »triumphierend«. This translation is possible, but it is not the best translation, because »triumphierend« is a participle and describes that the companion is triumphing (it describes that an action is going on), so in German it describes exactly what the Englisch participle »triumphing« means, not what »triumphant« means.

Better translations for »triumphant« are:

  • siegestrunken (literal: drunk from victory)
  • erfolgreich (successful, high-flying, palmy)
  • triumphal (triumphal)
  • Most of what you say is correct, but: thriumphant is today in fact a commonly accepted adjective in English (it does in fact have a comparative and superlative). It does look like a past participle, but most etymologies consider it derived from triumphans, which is in fact the present participle.
    – tofro
    Jan 3, 2022 at 17:16
  • @tofro: This is exactly what I wrote: "»triumphant« (which is a proper adjective)". I never claimed that »triumphant« could be a participle. I said that »triumphing« is not an adjective but a participle. Btw: Also most participles have comparative and superlative (»Lisas Zimmer ist aufgeräumter als Pauls, aber Annas Zimmer ist am aufgeräumtesten.«) Jan 3, 2022 at 18:02
  • The usual English term, which recognizes that a word like "triumphing" indeed functions as an adjective, is unsurprisingly, "participle adjective". Jan 6, 2022 at 10:51

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