This course is designed in a step by step progress. It is recommended not to move to the next lesson until you have completed the goal of the previous lesson.

Lesson 28

Passive voice in German (das Passiv)

Goal of this lesson

The goal of this lesson is to understand the passive voice in German. We will learn to make passive of the tenses we have already learn.

Till now we have learned three tenses of German language i.e.

  1. Präsens (simple present)
  2. Perfekt (perfect) and
  3. Futur I (simple future).
In this chapter we will learn how to make passive voice out of these tenses.

In an active sentence, the person who does something is important.
Herr Meier repariert das Motorrad. (Mr. Meier repairs the motorcycle.)
In a passive sentence, the acting person i.e. the subject is unimportant. The action is important and is the focus. In German passive is formed by combination of verb "werden" or "sein" and Partizip II. We have already discussed Partizip II in chapter 25 (perfect).
Das Motorrad wird repariert. (The motorcycle is being repaired.)

However, if the acting person or thing is to be mentioned, it is done in two ways:

  1. von + Dativ
  2. durch + Akkusativ
Das Motorrad wird vom Herrn Meier repariert. (The motorcycle is being repaired by Mr. Meier.)

Two types of passive voice

There are two types of passive voice sentences.

  1. Vorgangspassiv (Passive voice of an operation)
  2. Zustandspassiv (Passive voice of a state)

Vorgangspassiv (Operational passive)

As the name shows "Vorgangspassiv" shows a process of operation. It is formed by verb "werden" (to be) and Partizip II (the participle). We have seen one example of Vorgangspassiv above. Below are the examples of passive formation in Präsens, Perfekt and Futur I.

Präsens

Er repariert das Motorrad. (He repairs the motorcycle.)
Das Motorrad wird repariert. (The motorcycle is being repaired.)

Sie macht sauber.(She cleans.)
Es wird sauber gemacht. (It is being cleaned.)

Er schreibt ein Brief. (He writes a letter.)
Ein Brief wird geschrieben.(A letter is being written.)

Ich muss das Wasser trinken. (I have to drink the water.)
Das Wasser muss getrunken werden. (The water has to be drunk.)

Perfekt

Er hat das Motorrad repariert. (He repaired the bike.)
Das Motorad ist repariert worden. (The motorcycle has been repaired.)

Sie hat sauber gemacht. (She cleaned up.)
Es ist sauber gemacht worden. (It has been cleaned.)

Er hat ein Brief geschrieben. (He wrote a letter.)
Ein Brief ist geschrieben worden. (A letter has been written.)

Ich habe das Wasser trinken müssen. (I had to drink the water.)
Das Wasser hat getrunken werden müssen. (The water has to be drunk.)

Futur I

Er wird das Motorrad reparieren. (He will repair the motorcycle.)
Das Motorrad wird repariert werden. (The bike will be repaired.)

Sie wird sauber machen. (She will clean up.)
Es wird sauber gemacht werden. (It will be cleaned.)

Er wird ein brief schreiben. (He will write a letter.)
Ein Brief wird geschrieben werden. (A letter will be written.)

Ich werde das Wasser trinken müssen. (I will have to drink the water.)
Das Wasser wird getrunken werden müssen. (The water will have to be drunk.)

Zustandspassiv (Statal passive)

"Zustandspassiv" indicates a state. It constructed by combination of ver "sein" and "Partizip II".

Präsens

Das Motorrad ist repariert.(The bike is repaired.)
Der Boden ist sauber gemacht. (The floor is cleaned.)
Der Brief ist geschrieben. (The letter is written.)
Das Fenster ist geschlossen. (The window is closed.)
Das Glas ist gebrochen. (The glass is broken.)
Die Kartoffeln sind geschnitten. (The potatoes are cut.)

Perfekt

The "Zustandspassiv" of "Perfekt" is almost never used in real life. However, it is constructed as follows:
Das Motorrad ist repariert gewesen. (The motorcycle has been repaired.)

Futur I

Das Motorrad wird repariert sein. (The bike will be repaired.)
Der Brief wird geschrieben sein. (The letter will be written.)