The dynamic passive voice

(The German werden passive and its forms in the indicative)

Table of contents – dynamic passive voice

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Using the dynamic passive
  2. Forms of the dynamic passive
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What does dynamic passive mean in grammar?

The dynamic passive voice, also called eventive passive, (in German: Vorgangspassiv) is the passive form of the verb that requires the auxiliary ‘werden’. The focus lies on the action or process. Furthermore, the dynamic passive can only be formed if the active sentence contains an accusative object. When transforming the sentence from active into passive, this accusative object becomes the subject of the passive sentence while the original subject becomes the object. Constructing the passive renders this new object (the performing person or thing) unimportant; it is therefore omitted in many cases.

Compare the following sentence examples:

  • Note the transformation from accusative object to subject and vice versa:
    • Passanten überqueren die Straße oft an dieser Stelle.“ (Passers-by often cross the street at this point.)
      • The original (active) sentence contains an accusative object.
    • Die Straße wird an dieser Stelle oft von Passanten überquert.“ (The street is often crossed by passers-by at this point.)
      • The newly formed passive sentence transforms the original subject into a prepositional object.
    • Die Straße wird an dieser Stelle oft überquert.“ (The street is often crossed at this point.)
      • This is the same dynamic passive sentence but without the object, as indicating ‘von Passanten’ (by passers-by) is irrelevant to the statement.
  • Information: Only sentences with an accusative object can form the dynamic passive voice. Despite this limitation, sentences without such an object still offer ways to establish another type of passive. Read this example sentence for illustration:
    • „Sandra verzeiht ihm.“ (Sandra forgives him.)
      • This active sentence includes a dative object.
    • Ihm wird verziehen.“ (He is forgiven.)
      • Careful! This utterance is a passive sentence without a subject.
    • Es wird ihm verziehen.“ (Literally also: He is forgiven.)
      • This alternative shows the use of the impersonal passive with the personal pronoun ‘Es’.

What are the indicative forms of the dynamic passive?

The dynamic passive is always formed with the auxiliary verb ‘werden’ and the Partizip Perfekt (past participle) of the respective main verb. Compare the following overview that lists the indicative forms; note, however, the formation of the dynamic passive in the Konjunktiv 1 and the dynamic passive in the Konjunktiv 2 (both are a kind of subjunctive) is also possible.

Formation of the dynamic passive voice in the indicative mood:

  • Präsens (present):
    • Active: „Die Stadt baut einen Kreisverkehr.“ (The town is building a roundabout.)
    • Passive: „Ein Kreisverkehr wird gebaut.“ (A roundabout is being built.)
  • Perfekt (present perfect):
    • Active: „Die Stadt hat einen Kreisverkehr gebaut.“ (The town has built a roundabout.)
    • Passive: „Ein Kreisverkehr ist gebaut worden.“ (A roundabout has been built.)
  • Präteritum (preterite/past):
    • Active: „Die Stadt baute einen Kreisverkehr.“ (The town built a roundabout.)
    • Passive: „Ein Kreisverkehr wurde gebaut.“ (A roundabout was built.)
  • Plusquamperfekt (pluperfect):
    • Active: „Die Stadt hatte einen Kreisverkehr gebaut.“ (The town had built a roundabout.)
    • Passive: „Ein Kreisverkehr war gebaut worden.“ (A roundabout had been built.)
  • Futur I (future):
    • Active: „Die Stadt wird einen Kreisverkehr bauen.“ (The town will build a roundabout.)
    • Passive: „Ein Kreisverkehr wird gebaut werden.“ (A roundabout will be built.)
  • Futur II (future perfect):
    • Active: „Die Stadt wird einen Kreisverkehr gebaut haben.“ (The town will have built a roundabout.)
    • Passive: „Ein Kreisverkehr wird gebaut worden sein.“ (A roundabout will have been built.)

Further explanations related to the ‘Dynamic passive voice’

The following explanations are referring to the topic ‘Using the dynamic passive voice (the passive with ‘werden’) in German grammar’ and may also be interesting:

  • The active voice in grammar
  • Subjectless sentences in German grammar
  • The grammatical mood of the verb
  • Personal pronouns in German grammar
  • Constituents of a German sentence