What are voices?

    This week I tackled the topic of German voices. I talked about what a voice is and how to form the active and passive voices in every tense and both the indicative and subjunctive moods. The downside is that I didn’t spend much time actually explaining how to form each of the sentences I did. I simply showed you an example of each tense and mood. You can watch the video below or you can keep on scrolling and see the examples from the video with the examples I cut out of the video.

    Let’s get the basics out of the way. In order to form the passive voice you will always need a form of “werden” and a past participle. The past particple will never change. It will always be whatever the past participle is for the main verb. “Werden” will change to fit the tense and mood of the sentence. Below you can see a comparison between the active future indicative and the passive present indicative. The only real difference is that instead of using an infinitive at the end of the sentence, we use a past participle.

    forming the passive voice

    In order to form the present indicative active voice, you simply conjugate your verb with the proper ending to go with the subject. In order to form the present indicative passive voice, you conjugate “werden” like you would in the present tense and then put your past participle of the other verb at the end of the sentence.

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    present indicative passive voice

    In order to form the future indicative active voice, you conjugate “werden” like you would in the present tense and add an infinitive of the other verb to the end of the sentence. The passive version uses two versions of “werden”. The first one is conjugated as you would in the present tense. The second version is an infinitive that goes to the end of the sentence. Your past particple of the other verb goes towards the end of the sentence, but it can’t go to the very end, because of the infinitive of “werden” so you put the past participle directly before the infinitive.

    future indicative passive voice

    The present perfect indicative active voice is formed with a form of either “haben” or “sein” conjugated like they would be in the present tense and then a past participle at the end of the sentence. You use a form of “sein” if the past participle is an intransitive verb (meaning it can’t take an object, which usually means it is a motion verb). You use “haben” for all of the other verbs. Since “werden” is an intransitive verb (it can’t take an object), you have to use a form of “sein” with it in the present perfect tense. Normally, your past particple of “werden” would be “geworden”, but for some odd reason, you change it to “worden” instead when you are using the passive voice. The past participle of your other verb is directly in front of “worden”.

    present perfect indicative passive voice

    The simple past indicative active voice is made with only one verb conjugated with a “-te” ending. If the verb is irregular, it uses a different set of endings. You can find a full explanation of this tense and all of the other tenses, for that matter, in my post about tenses. In order to form this tense with the passive voice, you simply conjugate “werden” in the simple past, which means it becomes “wurden” or some other similar form. The past participle of your other verb still goes to the end of the sentence.

    simple past indicative passive voice

    The past perfect indictive active voice is basically a combination of the Perfekt and simple past. You use a past tense form of either “haben” or “sein” (based on the same rules as in the Perfekt) and you put a past participle at the end of the sentence. In order to form the passive voice, you always use a past tense version of “sein” and add the word “worden” to the end of the sentence. Your past participle stays directly before the “worden” as it did in the present perfect tense.

    past perfect (pluperfect) indicative passive voice

    In order to form the future perfect indicative active voice, you use a form of “werden”, like you would with the first future tense I talked about. You then add either “haben” or “sein” and a past participle of your other verb to the end of the sentence. You still use “haben” and “sein” based on the rules of the present perfect tense. You also put “haben” or “sein” at the end of the sentence after the past participle. Similar to what happened in the past perfect, you use “worden” towards the end of the sentence, but now the order becomes: past participle, “worden”, and “sein” at the end of the sentence.

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    future perfect indicative passive

    The subjunctive present tense active voice can be formed either with a strangely conjugated version of the verb that resembles the simple past form or you can use a combination of “würden” conjugated to fit the subject and an infinitive at the end of the sentence. In order to change this to the passive voice, you simply change the infinitive at the end of the sentence to the past participle and add “werden” to the end of the sentence after the past participle.

    present/future subjunctive passive

    The past tense uses a subjunctive conjugation of “haben” or “sein” (follow the same rules for deciding which one as the present perfect tense), which resembles the simple past forms, but with an umlaut. You also add a past participle to the end of the sentence. In the passive voice, you always use “sein” in the subjunctive mood, but you add “worden” to the end of the sentence after the past participle.

    Passive past subjunctive

    This concludes what was supposed to be a brief overview of how to form the passive voice in every tense and mood. There are a lot of rules for each one of these situations, so don’t think that if you understood what I said in this blog post that you can use the passive voice well. It is much more complicated than this and I will hopefully do more in depth posts about this in the future.

    What’s next?

    Next week I will be conjugating “sagen” in all tenses, moods, and voices as an example of how to do this for a regular verb that is regular in every tense. This will be a series of several videos that will be used to review the information that I have covered in the German grammar jargon videos over the past few weeks.

    Grammatical Voices

    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.