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German Passive

German Passive

In German, just like in English, there is an active voice (Aktiv or Tätigkeitsform) and the passive voice (Passive or Leidensform).
In the active voice the agent (the thing or person that is carrying out the action) is the subject of the sentence. On the other hand, in the passive voice, the subject is the object (on which the action is carried out)

The passive voice is used when the agent is not very relevant or unknown. There are two types of passive in German:

  • The processual passive (Vorgangspassiv)

Der Schrank wird geöffnet
The closet is in the process of being opened

  • The statal passive (Zustandspassiv)

Der Schrank ist geöffnet
The closet is open

The processual passive (Vorgangpassiv)

As its name states, the processual passive is used for actions and is translated to English with the verb "to be" + the participle.
The construction of the processual passive is: "werden" + Partizip II

Die Zeitung wird von mir gelesen
The newspaper is being read by me

Conjugation

Präsens

Active VoicePassive Voice
ich küsse
I kiss
ich werde geküsst
I am kissed

Präteritum

Active voicePassive voice
ich küsste
I kissed
ich wurde geküsst
I was kissed

Perfekt

Active voicePassive voice
ich habe geküsst
I have kissed
ich bin geküsst worden
I have been kissed

Plusquamperfekt

Active voicePassive voice
ich hatte geküsst
I had kissed
ich war geküsst worden
I had been kissed

Futur I

Active voicePassive voice
ich werde küssen
I will kiss
ich werde geküsst werden
I will be kissed

Futur II

Active voicePassive voice
ich werde geküsst haben
I will have kissed
ich werde geküsst worden sein
I will have been kissed

The processual passive with transitive verbs

You have to pay attention to when you change a sentence from active to passive because the accusative will end up as nominative and thus change its declension.

Ich esse gerade einen Käse
I am eating a cheese

Ein Käse wird gerade gegessen
A cheese is being eaten

The passive can’t be constructed:

  • if the sentence is reflexive

    Wir treffen uns um 11 Uhr
    We will meet each other at 11

  • if the verb in the sentence indicates possession: "haben", "bekommen", "kriegen"…

    Ich habe ein Haus
    I have a house

  • if the sentence has the construction "es gibt"

    Es gibt einen Brief für mich
    There is a letter for me

  • if the accusative is a measurement of quantity.

Die Hose kostet 40 Euros
The pants cost 40 Euros

Die Brücke misst 70 Meter
The bridge measures 70 meters

  • if the accusative is a piece of clothing belonging to the subject
  • if the accusative is a body part of the subject
  • if the accusative is a circumstantial object in time

The processual passive with intransitive verbs

Some sentences have verbs without accusative that also can form the passive voice. The typical example of this is the verb "helfen":

Active voicePassive voice
Juan hilft den Mitarbeitern
Juan helps his coworkers
Den Mitarbeitern wird (es) (von Juan) geholfen
The coworkers are helped by Juan

Note: we’re going to look at this with a bit more detail. The sentence could also be written as an impersonal clause:

Es wird den Mitarbeitern (von Juan) geholfen

Don’t be mistaken; the subject is the pronoun "es". What happens usually is that it is omitted.

The processual passive with modal verbs

The modal verbs, just as they are, do not have passive voice. What happens is that modal verbs are accompanied by a full verb, and this full verb can have a passive voice.

It’s easier to see this with an example:

Active voice:

Er muss den Wein trinken
He has to drink the wine

Passive voice:

Der Wein muss von ihm getrunken werden
The wine has to be drunk by him

Präsens

Active voicePassive voice
ich muss küssen
I have to kiss
ich muss geküsst werden
I have to be kissed

Präteritum

Active voicePassive voice
ich musste küssen
I had to kiss
ich musste geküsst werden
I had to be kissed

Perfekt

Active voicePassive voice
ich habe küssen müssen
I had to kiss
ich habe geküsst werden müssen
I had to be kissed

Plusquamperfekt

Active voicePassive voice
ich hatte küssen müssen
I had to have kissed
ich hatte geküsst werden müssen
I had to have been kissed

Futur I

Active voicePassive voice
ich werde küssen müssen
I will have to kiss
ich werde geküsst werden müssen
I will have to be kissed

Futur II (very rarely used in the passive voice)

Active voicePassive voice
ich werde geküsst haben müssen
I will have to have kissed
ich werde geküsst worden sein müssen
I will have to have been kissed

Von / Durch

"Von" and "Durch" come before the agent.

  • "Von" + Dative. This is used to indicate the cause of the action (normally persons or animals)

    Google wurde von 2 Mathematikern gemacht
    Google was made by 2 mathematicians

  • "Durch" + Accusative. This is used to indicate the means by which the action is caused.

    Google wird durch Werbung finanziert
    Google is financed by advertising

The statal passive (Zustandspassiv)

As the name indicates, this type of passive is used to express a state. The construction of the passive of state is: "sein" + Partizip II.

Conjugation

Präsens

Passive
ich bin verärgert
I am upset

Präteritum

Passive voice
ich war verärgert
I was upset

Perfekt

Passive voice
ich bin verärgert gewesen
I have been upset

Plusquamperfekt

Passive voice
ich war verärgert gewesen
I had been upset

Futur I

Passive voice
ich werde verärgert sein
I will be upset

Futur II

Passive voice
ich werde verärgert gewesen sein
I will have been upset

Alternative passive forms

Although these clauses are not passive, they have the same meaning as the passive voice.

Man

In many cases, clauses are formed with the pronoun "man" as a subject. The particle man can be translated to English as "one", as in "One should watch what he says". It is also like saying "they" when one is referring to some unknown group of people, etc.

Was isst man in Italien?
What does one eat in Italy?

Bekommen-Passiv

It is also called "Adressatenpassiv" and can be formed with the verbs bekommen, "erhalten" or "kriegen" which act as auxiliary verbs.

In this construction, the dative is changed into the subject (remember that in the passive voice it was the object that changed into the subject)

Active voicePassive voice
Sie liefern uns heute das Sofa
They’ll deliver the sofa to us today
Wir bekommen heute (von ihnen) das Sofa geliefert
We will receive (the delivery of) the sofa (from them) today


5 Comments

#5 [Mohamedi Rashidi Mwanangoto]2016-12-02 05:38
Dir Sir/Maadam Thank you so much very helpfully materials

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