German Passive Voice – Explanation and Examples

Das Passiv im Deutschen – Erklärungen und Beispiele

Welcome to language-easy.org! Well, as you have chosen this article, I suppose that you want to enter deeply in the world of German grammar and learn something about German passive voice. So, this part of the German language is, of course, of high importance. Nevertheless, the German passive voice is not used as frequently as in the English language.

However, you should know master this grammar topic, as it is essential for understand news reports in newspapers and television. Furthermore, a lot of neutral reports in working contexts are written in the German passive voice. So, even though this part of German grammar might be difficult sometimes, but the its high importance should encourage you to study hard.

Well, German is rather complicated language – There are a lot of exceptions which you can only master by studying hard. But think of the huge world of German culture and all the other possibilities that will open when you dominate this language.

So, let’s not lose to much time and go straight forward to the first part of this article. Well, we will talk about what German passive voice actually is. After that, we will try to clear up how German passive voice is used in the correct kind of way. By the way, in case you want to know more about this German grammar topic, just have a look at this article on Wikipedia.

And now… Los geht’s!

Definition and Usage of German Passive Voice

Die Definition und Anwendung des Passivs im Deutschen

First of all, we will have to clear up what the German passive voice actually is. So, there are two types of German passive voice which we will define in the following.

1. The Processual Passiv

First, there is the processual passive (Vorgangspassiv) which is conjugated with the verb “werden”. So, this type of German passive voice emphasizes an action. Well, let’s use and example phrase to show what that means.

  • “Der Hund wurde angefahren” – The dog was run down.

Here, you can clearly see the emphasis on the action.

2. The Statal Passiv

Second, we have the statal passive (Zustandspassiv) which is conjugated with the verb “sein” and emphasizes a condition. So, here is another example phrase that show the correct usage of the this type of German passive voice.

  • “Der Hund is verletzt” – The dog is hurt.

Obviously, the condition of the dog is described and not the action of hurting him.

Of course, and absolutely typical for the passive voice, who or what caused the action or condition is either not important, unknown or assumed to be general knowledge. Well, as we have cleared up the two basic principles of German passive voice, we will now talk about it’s conjugation.

The Conjugation of German Passive Voice

Die Konjugation des Passivs im Deutschen

Now, we will come to the central part of this article about German passive voice. So, we will talk about the conjugation of both types of German passive voice and have a detailed look on their structure and some examples.

1. The Processual Passive Voice

First, let’s have a look at the conjugation of the processual passive in German. Well, as already mentioned, we need a form the auxiliary verb “werden” and the past participle of the full verb. Luckily, there is a simple rule for is structure:

Subject + form of “werden” (+ object) + past participle

So, not too difficult, isn’t it? And, to make it even easier to understand for you, let’s look at the following table with the conjugation of this kind of German passive voice in all German tenses.

TenseExample Sentence in Processual Passive
PresentDer Hund wird verletzt.
Present PerfectDer Hund ist verletzt worden.
Simple PastDer Hund wurde verletzt.
Past PerfectDer Hund war verletzt worden.
Future 1Der Hund wird verletzt verletzt werden.
Future 2Der Hund wird verletzt worden sein.

Now, as we have cleared up how to form this type of German passive voice, let’s come to the next one and talk about it’s forms in different tenses.

2. The Statal Passive

Second, we will have a look at the forming of the second type of German passive voice, the statal passive. Of, there is also a formula quite similar to the other type of German passive. Well, the only difference is that we need a form of “sein” and the past participle of the full verb. So, here is the rule.

Subject + form of “sein” + past participle

Now, we will illustrate what this formula means in the following table. Of course, we will have a look the conjugation in the 3rd person singular in all German tenses.

TenseExample Sentence in Statal Passive
PresentDer Hund ist verletzt.
Present PerfectDer Hund ist verletzt gewesen.
Simple PastDer Hund war verletzt.
Past PerfectDer Hund war verletzt gewesen.
Future 1Der Hund wird verletzt sein.
Future 2Der Hund wird verletzt gewesen sein.

Active or Passive Voice?

Aktiv oder Passiv?

Now, we have reached the final point of this article. Well at this point we will have to clear up whether to use the active of German passive voice. Of course, all of you know that we use the active form to emphasize who or what is performing an action.

Furthermore, the German passive voice is used to emphasize the action itself. Here, who or what is performing is often left in passive sentences.

Unfortunately, we are learning German. And this means, that there are exceptions! Well, actually it’s not too complicated, so, don’t wory. Well, there are simply some kind of verbs that can’t be expressed in the German passive voice. In the following, we will have a closer look at these verb groups.

1. Verbs whose Present Perfect Form takes “sein”

So, this is the first group of verbs that can’t be expressed in the passive. Well, an example for this group of verbs would be “fahren” (to drive).

2. Reflexive Verbs

Second, there are reflexive verbs which can not be expressed in the passive voice. Of course, all of you know that reflexive verbs always take a reflexive pronoun. Well, an example would be “sich beschweren” (to complain). By the way, just click on the link above for some more information about reflexive verbs.

3. Other Verbs without Accusative Object

Unfortunately, there is another broad group of verbs, that can’t be expressed in German passive voice. Here, “schlafen” (to sleep) would be a good example. Others are “haben” (to have), “kennen” (to know), “es gibt” (there is).

4. Examples German passive voice vs. active voice

passiveactive
Das Haus wird von der Frau durchsucht.Die Frau durchsucht das Haus.
Die Kinder wurden vom Mann geküsst. Der Mann küsste die Kinder.
Der Ball ist von dem Elefanten gefangen worden.Der Elefant hat den Ball gefangen.
Der Kuchen wird von der Mutter in den Ofen geschoben.Die Mutter schiebt den Kuchen in den Ofen.
German Passive Voice

Exercises

Übungen

Finally we have reached the last part of this article where you can proof the German skills you have just learned. In the following you will see some phrases that you should complete with the correct terms. Once you have filled all the gaps, just click on the “correct” button and  you can see your errors and the correct results. Good luck and .. auf Wiedersehen!

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