Process Passive

In German, there are two types of passive: Process Passive and Status Passive. They have different meanings, constructions, and uses. In this lesson we focus on the process passive.

The Process Passive

Examples:

  • „Die Frau wurde angefahren.“
  • „Ein Verband wurde der Frau angelegt.“
  • „Die Frau wird ins Krankenhaus gebracht.“

In these sentences, the most important information is: Someone was run into, a bandage was put on her, the woman was driven to the hospital.

Who ran into her, who put the bandage on, and who drove her to the hospital are either not important or unknown.

Constructing the Process Passive

Present Tense:

It's made of two parts:

werden (conjugated) + past participle

Example:

  • „Der Kuchen wird (vom Bäcker) gebacken.“
    "Werden" is conjugated and the past participle goes at the end of the sentence.

With Modal Verbs:

It's made of three parts:

modal verb (conjugated) + werden + past participle

Example:

  • „Der Kuchen muss gebacken werden.“
    The modal verb is conjugated and goes in position 2 (or position 1 for questions), werden is in the infinitive form (goes at the end), and the past participle is in the second to last position.

Process Passive in All Tenses:

That might seem like a lot to remember, but it all follows a basic principle: follow the normal rules of the tense, but the main verb is the combination "werden" + past participle. "Werden" is conjugated like any other main verb in that tense.

From Active to Passive

How to transform an active sentence into a (process) passive sentence:

  1. The accusative object becomes the subject.
  2. The subject is removed or replaced by "von" + the noun in the dative case.
  3. The verb is put in the past participle form and the conjugated helping verb "werden" is used.

Examples in All Tenses

Process Passive in the Simple Present:

Active:

  • Der Mann öffnet das Fenster.“
  • Die Frau liest das Buch.“

Passive: ("werden" + past participle)

  • Das Fenster wird (vom Mann) geöffnet.“
  • Das Buch wird (von der Frau) gelesen.“

Process Passive in the Simple Past:

Active:

  • Der Mann öffnete das Fenster.“
  • Die Frau las das Buch.“

Passive: ("wurden" + past participle)

  • Das Fenster wurde (vom Mann) geöffnet.“
  • Das Buch wurde (von der Frau) gelesen.“

Process Passive in Perfect:

Active:

  • Der Mann hat das Fenster geöffnet.“
  • Die Frau hat das Buch gelesen.“

Passive:  ("sein" + past participle + "worden")

  • Das Fenster ist (vom Mann) geöffnet worden.“
  • Das Buch ist (von der Frau) gelesen worden.“

Process Passive in Past Perfect:

Active:

  • Der Mann hatte das Fenster geöffnet.“
  • Die Frau hatte das Buch gelesen.“

Passive: ("waren" + past participle + "worden")

  • Das Fenster war (vom Mann) geöffnet worden.“
  • Das Buch war (von der Frau) gelesen worden.“

Process Passive in Future 1:

Active:

  • Der Mann wird das Fenster öffnen.“
  • Die Frau wird das Buch lesen.“

Passive: ("werden" + past participle + werden)

  • Das Fenster wird (vom Mann) geöffnet werden.“
  • Das Buch wird (von der Frau) gelesen werden.“

Process Passive in Future 2:

Active:

  • Der Mann wird das Fenster geöffnet haben.“
  • Die Frau wird das Buch gelesen haben.“

Passive: ("werden" + past participle + "worden" + "sein")

  • Das Fenster wird (vom Mann) geöffnet worden sein.“
  • Das Buch wird (von der Frau) gelesen worden sein.

Word Order

Normal Sentences:

Questions:

Verbs with No Passive Voice

Some forms can't be used in the passive voice These are verbs that use "sein" in the construction of the perfect tense, reflexive verbs, and verbs that describe a status (and not an action).

Examples:

Verbs that use the verb "sein" in the perfect tense

  • „Ich bin (zum Zahnarzt) gegangen.

Passive is not possible because I can only walk by myself → Nobody can do it for me → No passive possible.


True reflexive verbs

  • „Ich konzentriere mich.“

Passive isn't possible because the subject is also the object being acted upon.  The subject is important. Nobody can do it for me → No passive possible.


Verbs that don't describe an action (and instead only describe a condition) can't use the passive voice:

  • i.e. „besitzen“, „haben“, „wissen“, „kennen“

In passive, the action is important. For these verbs, there is no action, and normally only a condition/status is stated → No passive possible.


Related Topics

There is another type of passive: Status Prassive.

The impersonal passive is a special form of the process passive.

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