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learning target

Aim of this section is to learn how to form the passive voice.



Das Haus wird gebaut.
Das Auto wurde komplett zerstört.
Das Handy ist verkauft worden.

The house is being built.
The car was completely destroyed.
The mobile phone has been sold.


What's the purpose of the passive voice?

You will find the passive voice mostly in written or formal spoken German e.g. news, reports on scientific experiments, newspaper, literature.
The passive voice is used to emphasise the action / process and not the agent (person or thing who is acting). It's not important who does something but what is done.


active voice

passive voice

  • Herr Schmidt baut ein Haus. (Mr Schmidt is building a house.)
  • Ein Haus wird gebaut. (A house is being built.)

In the active voice the emphasis is placed on the agent (Herr Schmidt). It's important that he is the one who is building a house.
In the passive voice it doesn't matter who is building a house. The emphasis is placed on the action "ein Haus bauen".

How do you form the passive voice?

Präsens (present tense)

In the Präsens tense you form the passive voice with:
form of "werden" + Partizip II


Let's discuss the first example a bit more in detail.

active voice

passive voice

  • Cathy küsst mich. (Cathy kisses me.)
  • Ich werde geküsst. (I'm being kissed.)

"Cathy" is the subject in the active voice sentence. I'm the direct object and "kiss" is the verb.
In the passive voice the direct object turns into the subject and has, therefor, to be in the nominative case.
The verb is replaced by "werden" + Partizip II. The subject of the active voice sentence disapears usually completly.

How to state the agent?

Like in English there is a possibiliy to state the agent (=subject of the active voice sentence).
In English you use the preposition "by".

In German there are two prepositions to state the agent:

  • von (if the agent is a person)
  • durch (if the agent is an inanimate thing)

...whereby you will mostly need the von-agent.


passive voice without agent

passive voice with agent

  • Ich werde geküsst. (I'm being kissed.)
  • Das Haus wird zerstört. (The house is being destroyed.)
  • Ich werde von Cathy geküsst. (I'm being kissed by Cathy.)
  • Das Haus wird durch den Sturm zerstört. (The house is being destroyed by the storm.)

Passive voice in other tenses

Be aware that the passive voice is not a tense!
The passive voice is a verb structure which allows you to emphasise the action/process
and this in every tense.

Präteritum (simple past)

In the Präteritum tense you form the passive voice with:
form of "wurden" + Partizip II


Perfekt (present perfect)

In the Perfekt tense you form the passive voice with:
form of "sein" + Partizip II + worden


Plusquamperfekt (past perfect)

In the Perfekt tense you form the passive voice with:
form of "war" + Partizip II + worden


What you learned so far about the passive voice should be enough on your current level.
However, I'd like add some more (complicate) theory for further studies.

Active sentences without a direct object

You learned that the direct object becomes the grammatical subject in a passive voice sentence.
What if there is no direct object included as you find in many dative sentences?
Remember the indirect object is the dative case.

example 1:

active voice

Sie antwortet mir. (She answers me.)

Since there is no direct object
we use the dummy subject Es.

passive voice

Es wird mir geantwortet. (I'm being answered.)

Now it becomes a bit crazy. It's logical to use a dummy subject if there is no subject
but it's even possible to leave out this dummy subject "Es" and keep the rest of the sentence.

Mir wird geantwortet. (I'm being answered.)

All we change is the word order of the remaining words
since the verb (here: helping verb "werden") has to be in the second position.

Be aware that "mir" is not the subject of the sentence.
"Mir" is obviously dative case and the subject is always in the nominative case.
The sentence doesn't contain a subject but we keep the conjugated form of "werden" as if
the dummy subject "Es" were there.

example 2:

active voice

Ich helfe den Kindern. (I help the children.)

passive voice (with dummy subject)

Es wird den Kindern geholfen. (The children are being helped.)

passive voice (without dummy subject)

Den Kindern wird geholfen. (The children is being helped.)

The following example makes this very clear:

Even if the dummy subject "Es" is not explicitly stated
the verb "werden" has to be in the third person singular (wird).

Don't put "werden" because you think "die Kinder" is plural.
They are plural but they are not the subject of the sentence
and only the subject determines the conjugated form of "werden".

Active sentences without any object

There is no way in English to turn an active sentence without any object into a passive voice.
In German there is!

example 1:

active voice

Die Kinder schlafen nachts. (The children sleep at night.)

passive voice

Es wird nachts geschlafen. (No direct translation! ~ people sleep at night)

example 2:

active voice

Matthias raucht zu viel. (Matthias smokes too much.)

passive voice

Es wird zu viel geraucht. (No direct translation! ~ people smoke too much)

The two different passive voice types

There is one last thing we have to speak about.

There are two different types of the passive voice:

  • werden-passive (Vorgangspassiv)
  • sein-passive (Zustandspassiv)

The sein-passive is also formed with Partizip II
but instead of the helping verb "werden" you use the helping verb "sein".

example 1:



  • Die Tür wird verschlossen. (The door is being locked.)
  • Die Tür ist verschlossen. (The door is locked.)

The werden-passive focus on the process "to lock the door".
The sein-passive describes the result of the process.

example 2:



  • Das Rauchen wurde verboten. (Smoking has been forbidden.)
  • Das Rauchen ist verboten. (Smoking is forbidden.)

The werden-passive describes the process. Somebody put a ban on smoking.
The sein-passive shows the result of it. It's forbidden to smoke nowadays.

active / passive overview





Ich schreibe ein Buch.

Ein Buch wird (von mir) geschrieben.


form of werden +
Partizip II


Ich schrieb ein Buch.

Ein Buch wurde (von mir) geschrieben.

Präteritum of the verb

form of wurden +
Partizip II


Ich habe ein Buch geschrieben.

Ein Buch ist (von mir) geschrieben worden.

form of haben or sein
+ Partizip II

form of sein +
Partizip II + worden


Ich hatte ein Buch geschrieben.

Ein Buch war (von mir) geschrieben worden.

form of hatte or war
+ Partizip II

form of war +
Partizip II + worden

Futur I

Ich werde ein Buch schreiben.

Ein Buch wird (von mir) geschrieben werden.

form of werden
+ Infinitiv

form of werden +
Partizip II + werden



Passiv (Präsens)


tom homework




Passiv (Präteritum)


tom homework




Passiv (Perfekt)


tom homework




summary - documents for your folder

Passiv (theory, 6 pages)



active/passive overview (1 page)