The Passive Voice in German
Grammar tips and examples (2)
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The passive voice in German is formed by combining the verb werden with the past participle of the verb you are making passive. To conjugate the verb forms in the passive voice, you use "werden" in its various tenses. Below are English-German examples of the passive in six different tenses, in the following order: present, simple past (Imperfekt), present perfect (Perfekt), past perfect, future and future perfect tenses.
|The Passive Voice
in Various Tenses
|The letter is (being) written by me.||Der Brief wird von mir geschrieben.|
|The letter was written by me.||Der Brief wurde von mir geschrieben.|
|The letter has been written by me.||Der Brief ist von mir geschrieben worden.|
|The letter had been written by me.||Der Brief war von mir geschrieben worden.|
|The letter will be written by me.||Der Brief wird von mir geschrieben werden.|
|The letter will have been written by me.||Der Brief wird von mir geschrieben worden sein.|
|WERDEN: Present Tense
The passive voice is used more frequently in written German than in spoken German. German also uses several active-voice substitutes for the passive voice. One of the most common is the use of man: Hier spricht man Deutsch. = German (is) spoken here. - Man sagt... = It is said... When a man-expression is put into the passive, the agent is not expressed, because man (one, they) is no one in particular. Below are more examples of passive substitutes in German.
|Passive Voice Substitutes
|Hier raucht man nicht.
One doesn't smoke here.
|Hier wird nicht geraucht.
There's no smoking here.
|Man reißt die Straßen auf.
They're tearing up the streets.
|Die Straßen werden aufgerissen.
The streets are being torn up.
|Man kann es beweisen.
One can prove it.
|Es kann bewiesen werden.
It can be proved.
|Man erklärte mir gar nichts.
Mir erklärte man gar nichts.
No one explained a thing to me.
|Gar nichts wurde mir erklärt.
Es wurde mir gar nichts erklärt.
Mir wurde gar nichts erklärt.
Nothing at all was explained to me.
|Notice: (1) The emphasis may be changed by placing different words first. (2) An indirect object (dative) pronoun (mir in the last example) remains dative in either the active or passive voice. (3) In impersonal passive statements, es is often omitted, as in the last set of examples.
More: Passive Exercises
Passive Voice Exercises
Do you really know how the German active and passive voice works? Find out on the exercise page for this article!
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