Past Tense Forms of Passive Voice

    Today’s video is a bit complicated for some, because it assumes you already have a working knowledge of the tenses in the active voice in German and a brief understanding of the two versions of the passive voice, Zustandspassiv and Vorgangspassiv. If you don’t understand these things already, this video and blog may overwhelm you. Come back when you have learned all of those things first. If you are looking for a place to start, I have covered all of these topics in the 3 Minuten Deutsch series already, so you can catch up there.

    If you want to read the story instead, you can find the script below the video. If you want to download the script as a side-by-side file with German and English next to each other or get an MP3 download of this, you can get that by supporting my work on Patreon. By supporting my work, you also get access to the worksheets I create for each video.

    Präsens

    The first tense any German learner starts with is the present tense. This is the tense that is easiest to use, as its simplicity allows even the most novice learners to pick it up quickly. It is used to describe events that are currently occurring, started in the past and are continuing into the present, or reoccurring events that have happened before and will likely happen again. It only uses one verb at a time until you get to the modal auxiliaries (müssen, dürfen, können, sollen, mögen, wollen). In order to create a sentence in the present tense, you simply add an ending to the stem of the verb that you chose. If it is a stem-changing verb and it is in a form that requires the change, make sure to include that.

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    If you use a present tense sentence with the passive voice, your original verb gets changed to a past participle, which is the “ge-stem-t” or “ge-stem-en” thing that you use in the Perfekt tense. That is placed at the end of the sentence or clause and a form of either “werden” or “sein” is put in the place where the other verb used to be. The verb “werden” is used when there is still an action occurring in the sentence, but the verb “sein” is used to show that the action has finished and the subject of the sentence is now left in a state caused by the finished action.

    Aktiv Präsens

    Der Mann wäscht den Hund. – The man is washing the dog.

    Das Kind spült das Geschirr. – The child is washing the dishes.

    Vorgangspassiv Präsens

    Der Hund wird von dem Mann gewaschen. – The dog is being washed by the man.

    Das Geschirr wird von dem Kind gespült. – The dishes are being washed by the child.

    Zustandspassiv Präsens

    Der Hund ist gewaschen. – The dog is washed.

    Das Geschirr ist gespült. – The dishes are washed.

    Perfekt

    The most common past tense that German learners encounter next is das Perfekt. This is used when speaking in German and is formed by using a form of either “sein” (for motion verbs or intransitive verbs) and “haben” (for non-motion verbs or transitive verbs) and a past participle.

    While this tense is usually used when speaking, it is almost never actually used to form the passive voice, because it makes things sound weird and stiff by having two forms of sein in the sentence, but it is technically possible to form the passive voice with this tense. You simply add “sein” to the sentence and change “sein” to its past participle. The verb “werden” doesn’t actually use its past participle, but instead uses “worden”, which is derived from the past participle of “werden”, “geworden”.

    Aktiv Perfekt

    Der Mann hat den Hund gewaschen. – The man washed the dog.

    Das Kind hat das Geschirr gespült. – The child washed the dishes.

    Vorgangspassiv Perfekt

    Der Hund ist gewaschen worden. – The dog was being washed.

    Das Geschirr ist gespült worden. – The dishes were being washed.

    Zustandspassiv Perfekt

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    Der Hund ist gewaschen gewesen. – The dog was washed.

    Das Geschirr ist gespült gewesen. – The dishes were washed.

    Präteritum

    The Präteritum is sometimes referred to as the “written past” tense. As the name implies, it is usually reserved for writing about things that happened in the past, but because of the stiffness of the passive voice when used in the Perfekt, most Germans choose to use the passive voice in the Präteritum, which is also aptly named the “simple past”. It is called the simple past, because you usually only need one verb. Since this is the passive voice, that isn’t necessarily the case, but it is still simpler than the Perfekt with the passive voice.

    In order to form this tense with the passive voice, you simply conjugate “sein” or “werden” (depending on the type of passive voice you are looking for) in the Präteritum (“war” and “wurde” respectively).

    Aktiv Präteritum

    Der Mann wusch den Hund. – The man washed the dog.

    Das Kind spülte das Geschirr. – The child washed the dishes.

    Vorgangspassiv Präteritum

    Der Hund wurde gewaschen. – The dog was being washed.

    Das Geschirr wurde gespült. – The dishes were being washed.

    Zustandspassiv Präteritum

    Der Hund war gewaschen. – The dog was washed.

    Das Geschirr war gespült. – The dishes were washed.

    Plusquamperfekt

    The Plusquamperfekt is what I refer to as the “double past”. This has two reasons. First, it indicates that something happened in the past before another event in the past. It also uses components from both of the above-mentioned past tenses, Perfekt and Präteritum. You use the conjugation of “sein” from the Präteritum, but you still need the past participle of “sein” (gewesen) or the form of the verb “werden” (worden) that is derived from the past participle at the end of the sentence like you did in the Perfekt.

    I should point out that while it is technically correct to say/write all of the forms I had below, the chances of you needing such a phrase is very slim and even if it were necessary in some strange way, no one I have ever met would actually use the Plusquamperfekt with the passive voice, as it is just too complicated and sounds so strange that people will have to think about your sentence for a few minutes to figure out what you are even trying to say. It is best to avoid this, but for the point of showing you how it would be done, I have included it on this list.

    Aktiv Plusquamperfekt

    Der Mann hatte den Hund gewaschen. – The man had washed the dog.

    Das Kind hatte das Geschirr gespült. – The child had washed the dishes.

    Vorgangspassiv Plusquamperfekt

    Der Hund war gewaschen worden. – The dog had been washed.

    Das Geschirr war gespült worden. – The dishes had been washed.

    Zustandspassiv Plusquamperfekt

    Der Hund war gewaschen gewesen. – The dog had been washed.

    Das Geschirr war gespült gewesen. – The dishes had been washed.

    Video Transcript

    Hallo und willkommen zum sechsundsechzigsten Video von 3 Minuten Deutsch. Heute wird über das Passiv in der Vergangenheit gesprochen.

    Letzte Woche habe ich schon erklärt, dass das Passiv verwendet wird um über einen Zustand oder eine Handlung zu sprechen, ohne zu sagen, wer oder was den Zustand oder die Handlung verursacht hat. Wenn man über einen Zustand spricht, verwendet man das Zustandspassiv, das mit ‘sein’ und dem Partizip Perfekt gebildet wird, spricht man stattdessen über eine Handlung, verwendet man das Vorgangspassiv und bildet es erneut mit dem Partizip Perfekt aber diesmal mit ‘werden’. Letzte Woche habe ich nur über das Präsens gesprochen. Wenn man eine andere Zeitform braucht, dann muss man normalerweise einfach “sein” oder “werden” in der anderen Zeitform konjugieren. Hier sind ein paar einfache Beispiele im Präsens und Imperfekt.

    Präsens Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden ist schon gefegt. – The floor is already swept.

    Präteritum Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden war schon gefegt. – The floor was already swept.

    Präsens Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden wird gefegt. – The floor is being swept.

    Präteritum Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden wurde gefegt. – The floor was being swept.

    Um das Passiv im Perfekt zu bilden, muss man “sein” so wie im Präsens konjugieren, das Partizip Perfekt an die zweitletzte Stelle des Satzes setzen und das Wort “worden” ans Ende des Satzes. Das Wort “worden” ist eine Form des Verbs “werden” und leitet sich von der Form “geworden” ab.

    Perfekt Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden ist schon gefegt worden. – The floor had already been swept.

    Perfekt Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden ist gefegt gewesen. – The floor was already swept.

    Das Passiv kann auch im Plusquamperfekt verwendet werden. Um das Plusquamperfekt zu bilden, beginnt man mit dem Passiv im Perfekt und dann konjugiert man “sein” als ob es Imperfekt wäre.

    Perfekt Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden ist gefegt worden. – The floor was swept.

    Plusquamperfekt Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden war gefegt worden. – The floor had been swept.

    Perfekt Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden ist gefegt gewesen. – The floor was swept.

    Plusquamperfekt Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden war gefegt gewesen. – The floor had been swept.

    Und jetzt zeige ich euch das Aktiv, Vorgangspassiv und Zustandspassiv in allen Vergangenheitsformen und im Präsens.

    Präsens Aktiv
    Ich fege den Fußboden. – I am sweeping the floor.

    Präsens Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden wird gefegt. – The floor is being swept.

    Präsens Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden ist gefegt. – The floor is swept.

    Perfekt Aktiv
    Ich habe den Fußboden gefegt. – I swept the floor.

    Perfekt Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden ist gefegt worden. – The floor was being swept.

    Perfekt Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden ist gefegt gewesen. – The floor was swept.

    Präteritum Aktiv
    Ich fegte den Fußboden. – I swept the floor.

    Präteritum Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden wurde gefegt. – The floor was being swept.

    Präteritum Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden war gefegt. – The floor was swept.

    Plusquamperfekt Aktiv
    Ich hatte den Fußboden gefegt. – I had swept the floor.

    Plusquamperfekt Vorgangspassiv
    Der Fußboden war gefegt worden. – The floor had been swept.

    Plusquamperfekt Zustandspassiv
    Der Fußboden war gefegt gewesen. – The floor had been swept.

    Wenn du Fragen zu diesem Thema hast, schreib mir deine Fragen in die Kommentare und ich werde sie beantworten.

    Das ist alles für heute. Danke fürs Zuschauen. Bis zum nächsten Mal. Tschüss.

    I hope this blog helped to clear up some of the common misconceptions about the passive voice and how it is used in the past tenses in German. Keep in mind that most people are only really going to use a couple of tenses in the passive voice. I personally would only use the Präsens, Präteritum, and Futur. I’ll be talking about the two future tenses next week. I thought it was too much for one video and blog to cover those in this episode, too.

    die Vergangenheitsformen des Passivs - Past Tense Forms of Passive Voice

    Partizip Perfekt als Adjektive - Past Participles as Adjectives

    Partizip Präsens als Adjektive - Present Participles as Adjectives

    Passiv im Präsens - Passive in the Present Tense

    Herr Antrim

    Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites.