Active and passive voice in German -

Active and passive voice in German

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The grammatical voice names in the German language a grammatical category of the verb, which shows the direction of action. In German grammar, a distinction is made between two possibilities. On the one hand, it is the active voice, and on the other the passive voice.

Referring to usage, there are different intentions that can be pursued with the grammatical voice. Thus, for example, with the change from an active sentence to a passive sentence the center of interest moves from the subject to the semantic object (complement), which returns to the subject again.

Passive and active

The gender of the verb can indicate whether the action originates from the agent (subject) – active – or if something is happening to him – passive. The two verb forms active and passive (action and suffering) represent an event from two different perspectives.


  • Aktiv (Tätigkeits- oder Tatform): Ich gieße die Blumen.
    Active (activity or fact): I water the flowers.
  • Passiv (Leideform): Die Blumen werden von mir gegossen.
    Passive (a form of suffering): The flowers are watered by me.

Verb gender

The gender of the verb can indicate whether the action originates from the agent (subject) – active – or if something is happening to him – passive. The two verb forms active and passive (action and suffering) represent an event from two different perspectives.


Ich gieße die Blumen.


I water the flowers.

– Aktiv (Tätigkeits- oder Tatform)


– Active (type of activity or act)

Die Blumen werden von mir gegossen


The flowers are watered by me.

– Passiv (Leideform)


– Passive (form of suffering)

In the passive voice, the focus is on the event itself or the result of the action. Active and passive should be seen as pure designations regardless of the meaning of the verb or sentence.

The asset is the basic neutral form. More than 90% of all verb forms are active. An active form can be formed from all German verb forms, but not from all passive forms.

Passive voice types

In the case of the passive voice, a distinction is made between two types according to the mode of formation and the meaning:

  • Das werden- oder Vorgangspassiv und
    becoming – or passive process and
  • das sein- oder Zustandspassiv.
    be – or passive state.

The passive werden is formed with the forms of the auxiliary verb werden and the participle II of the corresponding verb.

  • Von diesem Verlag werden Schulbücher herausgegeben.
    School books are published by this publisher.
  • Dieser Platz wurde von Touristen häufig besucht.
    This place was frequently visited by tourists.

Because this liability expresses a process, it is also called a passive process.

The sein-passive is formed with the forms of sein and the past participle of the verb in question.

  • Das Haus ist wegen Einsturzgefahr gesperrt.
    The house is closed due to the risk of collapse.
  • Betreten der Baustelle ist verboten.
    Entering the construction site is prohibited.

The passive being expresses a state existing. Therefore, it is also called the passive state. This state is the result of a previous process.

Does passive education make sense?

Not all verbs can form a significant passive. Verbs that have an accusative addition in the activities are mostly passive:

  • Beantragen, ablehnen, bringen, lesen, bedecken, unterstützen, trennen, nennen, sehen.
    Request, refuse, bring, read, cover, support, separate, appoint, consult.

Some verbs with an accusative ending cannot form a passive voice . These are mainly:

  • Verben des Habens, wie haben, besitzen, bekommen:
    Have verbs, such as having, possessing, obtaining:
  • Sie hat einen neue Frisur. Aber nicht: Eine neue Frisur wird von ihr gehabt.
    He has a new hairstyle. But no: she has a new hairstyle.

Verbs associated with a measure, wie kosten, wiegen, enthalten : such as cost, weight, contain

  • Die Tüte enthält vier Bonbons.
    The bag contains four candies.
  • Aber nicht: Vier Bonbons werden von der Tüte enthalten.
    But no: the bag contains four candies.


  • Er kennt viele Sprichwörter. Aber nicht: Viele Sprichwörter werden von ihm gekannt.
    Know many proverbs. But not: many sayings of him are known.

Passive for verbs without accusative object

Verbs without an accusative object can only form a passive in rare cases. Due to the lack of an accusative object, no subject is formed, but a pseudo-subject or “impersonal passive”. These verbs include helfen, lachen, tanzen, sprechen to help, laugh, dance, speak.

  • Hier darf nicht geraucht werden.
    Smoking is not allowed here.
  • Damit ist mir nicht geholfen.
    That does not help me.

The passive is used more frequently in German than in English. For this reason, it is easy for us to find German phrases rarer, as a result of the fact that they are not used in Spanish. In many cases, Spanish tends to favor the passive reflex (the pronoun “se” + the verb in the active voice), or the active voice is used directly.

Finally, when can you not form a passive voice in German?

On these occasions there is no point in trying to construct a passive sentence:


  1. The verb is reflexive
  2. Verb indicates possession
  3. The accusative is a measure or a quantity
  4. Accusative is a garment worn by the subject
  5. The accusative is a bodily part of the subject
  6. Accusative is a circumstantial complement of time
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1 Response

  1. Muhammad Jamshaid says:

    I need German language learning


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