I know that the extended participial phrase can be extended with adverbs, adjectives, and I believe objects, although I am confused by objects in this sense left of the Partizip I and Partizip II in an extended participial phrase.

And I know that in this sentence construction there can quite some considerable distance between the article and the noun.

But what I am unsure of is the order of the elements and exactly what elements are able to go between the article and the Partizip I and Partizip II.

Partizip I "Der schreibende Mann"

Partizip II "Das geschriebene Buch"

So how best to write the order and types of elements in an extended participial phrase?

And for understanding it is best to change into relative clause to decode such long constructions?

  • 1
    I'm not sure I understand the question. Partizip I & II (aka present and past participles) have different functions and work differently. Also, the past participle has several grammatical uses. Did you want answers for each sentence type involving a participle or were you expecting a single explanation that covers everything? It would help to give examples of what you're talking about.
    – RDBury
    Jan 10 at 12:29
  • Question is about the extended participial phrase. And how to form these types of phrases. What I want to learn is the order and kinds of elements like adverbs, adjectives, objects and anything that can be to the left of these participials and the articles. So basically the idea of the post was to understand the construction of the extended participle phrases.
    – John Lamb
    Jan 10 at 12:34
  • Without more context or details the question is difficult to answer. Can you add examples of elements that you would put in between or that you are unsure about? In both examples, the participle is used like an adjective, so it specifies details of the object/subject named by the noun. You can put various things between article and participle, e.g more adjectives to further specify the man or the book, adverbs to further specify the participle or even a whole clause like ", und das sage ich mit voller Absicht,". Show an example of a long construction which is difficult for you to decode.
    – Bodo
    Jan 10 at 15:16

3 Answers 3


As you pointed out, extended participial phrases can be transformed into relative clauses. Internally, they are constructed like sentences.

die [ von Boumedienne unter Geschützdonner und Sirenengeheul am 5. Juli, dem Unabhängigkeitstag, ] verkündeten Friedensziele (Zeit, 9.7.1965, via DWDS Korpora)

die Friedensziele, die [ von Boumedienne unter Geschützdonner und Sirenengeheul am 5. Juli, dem Unabhängigkeitstag, ] verkündet wurden

You can think of the definite article or relative pronoun as corresponding to the left edge (Vorfeld and linke Klammer) of a main clause, with the participle at the right edge (right sentence bracket or verbal complex).

Die Friedensziele wurden [ von Boumedienne unter Geschützdonner und Sirenengeheul am 5. Juli, dem Unabhängigkeitstag, ] verkündet.

The part in the middle, between the square brackets, is the same in all three instances: it's the Mittelfeld, which means the word order is variable. For instance:

die [ am 5. Juli von Boumedienne unter Geschützdonner und Sirenengeheul ] verkündeten Friedensziele


Partizip I

Partizip I is active voice and present tense.

The subject of the participle phrase is always given by the outer sentence and cannot be changed inside the phrase itself. You can basically add all the other valences that the verb has to the construction by putting them before the participle, whether it be objects, adverbs, prepositionals, or other parts of speech, even Relativsätze.


Objects: Der seinem Bruder einen langen Brief schreibende Mann gähnte.
Adverb: Der sorgfältig einen langen Brief schreibende Mann gähnte.
Prepositional: Der in einem Café sorgfältig einen langen Brief schreibende Mann gähnte.
Partizip als Adverb im Partizip: Der in einem Café den ganzen Tag an einer Tasse Kaffee nippend sorgfältig einen langen Brief schreibende Mann gähnte.

The order of the additional parts of speech in the construction is the same as it would be in a main clause ("Der Mann schreibt [seinem Bruder einen langen Brief].").

Partizip II

As a main participle in participial phrases, Partizip II is passive voice and past tense. So subjects and objects play a different role, like they do in any sentence in passive voice. Otherwise, like with participial phrases with Partizip I, the subject is determined by the outer sentence and cannot be changed in the participial construction, and you can add parts of speech before the participle.

Karl las den spannend geschriebenen Brief.
Karl las den von seinem Freund Tom seinem Bruder Tim, der in Amerika lebte, auf luxuriösem Papier mit Tinte spannend geschriebenen Brief.

Note how Brief is the subject of the participial phrase, but at the same time the object in the outer main phrase. Also, because it's passive voice, the person who wrote the letter is not the subjevt, but appears in the "von" prepositional in the longer example. Also note the dative object "seinem Bruder Tim" that is a valence of the verb "schreiben" (Jemandem etwas schreiben).

Caveat: participles of modal verbs

Participles of more complex predicates including modal verbs are in some cases also possible (somewhat pathological). These help to escape the limitations about active and passive voice as well as present and past tense.

Passive voice, present tense: Ein anderer, gerade rasiert werdender Kunde mischte sich in das Gespräch zwischen Bodo und seiner Friseurin ein.
Active voice, past tense: Nach einem langen Tag, unzählige Kunden frisiert habend, sank die Friseurin erschöpft ins Bett.

(Also note the commas in the second example. These are used to separate parts that belong to the participle frome parts that belong to the main clause.)

Stylistic considerations

It is a question of style at what point it makes more sense to use a relative clause. The respective last examples above are grammatically possible but will be hard to understand and sound artificial and bloated.

  • Denoting the usage of Partizip II as "passive only" is a bit daring: When building composite tenses (Perfekt, Plusquamperfekt, Futur II), the Partizip II can very well build active predicates.
    – tofro
    Jan 10 at 15:38
  • @tofro: I limited that statement to participial phrases. Maybe I overlooked something?
    – HalvarF
    Jan 10 at 15:42
  • Your first sentence is two statements connected with an "and". Maybe it wasn't clear to me the limiting statement was intended to limit the part before the "and" as well. It can be read as "Partizip II is passive voice." ... and something else.
    – tofro
    Jan 10 at 16:03
  • @tofro: thanks, edited and also added a paragraph about modal verb participials.
    – HalvarF
    Jan 10 at 16:27

It works similar to a relative clause, yes.

der den langen Brief schreibende junge Mann

der junge Mann, der den langen Brief schreibt

But you have to be aware that the Partizip II leads to passive voice:

das von dem jungen Mann gelesene dicke Buch

das Buch, das von dem jungen Mann gelesenen wird/wurde/worden ist

And of course those may form parantheses:

das von dem den langen Brief schreibenden jungen Mann gelesene dicke Buch

das dicke Buch, das von dem den langen Brief schreibenden jungen Mann gelesen wird/…

das dicke Buch, das von dem jungen Mann, der den langen Brief schreibt, gelesen wird/…

In the beginning you may “decode” it as relative clauses but in the long run, those constructions should come natural to you as they are common in non-trivial writing. Often because there's another level of relative clauses outside.

Ihr Interesse für den den langen Brief schreibenden, gut aussehenden jungen Mann, der ihr, wenn er kurz aufsah, schon einige flüchtige Blicke zugeworfen hatte, erlahmte schlagartig, als er das vor ihm aufgeschlagene dicke Buch, in dem er zuvor eifrig nach den angemessenen, dem Glanz seiner Gefühle den richtigen Ausdruck verleihenden Worten gesucht hatte, hochnahm: „Deutsche Steuergesetze“ stand dort in ebenso dicken Lettern.

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