The static passive voice

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

Table of contents – static passive voice

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Using the static passive voice
  2. Forms of the indicative
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What does static passive mean in grammar?

The static passive voice (German name: Zustandspassiv) denotes a form of passive formation in which the state of something or the result of an action is in the foreground (rather than the action itself). The acting person or thing (the agent) is not specified in most cases. Compared to the dynamic passive, a unique feature is that the static passive is formed with the auxiliary verbsein’ (thus, it is also called sein passive). In chronological order, the static passive always comes after the active voice and the dynamic passive since it represents a result of these.

Compare the usage with the following sentence examples:

  1. In terms of time, the active voice or the dynamic passive voice comes first, then the static passive voice follows:
    • „Die Tochter kocht das Essen.“ (The daughter is preparing the food.)
      • Either an action in the active voice comes first, …
    • „Das Essen wird (von der Tochter) gekocht.“ (The food is being prepared [by the daughter].)
      • … or instead of that the dynamic passive voice, followed by the result:
    • „Das Essen ist gekocht.“ (The food is prepared.)
      • Which is the static passive voice, indicating the result of cooking in this example. The agent is not mentioned.
  2. Furthermore, the agent (which is the actor in the statement) is usually not specified in the static passive, although it may be necessary or useful in some cases:
    • „Der starke Wind hat viele der alten Bäume umgeknickt.“ (The strong wind has blown down many of the old trees.)
      • active voice sentence
    • „Viele der alten Bäume sind umgeknickt.“ (Many of the old trees are blown down.)
      • static passive sentence without the agent
    • „Viele der alten Bäume sind durch den starken Wind umgeknickt.“ (Many of the old trees have been blown down by the strong wind.)
      • static passive with the naming of the agent

Watch out: The static passive voice may easily be confused with other verb forms, such as the tense Perfekt active voice or an adjective as a subject complement. Accordingly, the following example sentences display the active voice and not the static passive voice. Compare:

  • „Die Orchidee ist leider eingegangen.“ (Unfortunately, the orchid has died.)
    • perfect tense: Perfekt active voice
  • „Der neue Schüler ist sehr verlogen.“ (The new student is very phoney.)
    • adjective as the subject complement
  • Information: See also further explanations for a more precise determination of the static passive voice.

What are the indicative forms of the static passive voice?

The static passive voice is formed with the auxiliary verb ‘sein’ and the past participle of the accompanying main verb. The following overview shows the indicative forms, but note that the formation of the static passive in the Konjunktiv 1 as well as the static passive in the Konjunktiv 2 (both correspond roughly to the subjunctive) is equally possible.

The indicative forms of the static passive of the various tenses (the German Tempus/Tempora) are produced as follows:

  • Präsens (present):
    • Active: „Der Bäcker knetet den Teig.“ (The baker is kneading the dough.)
    • Passive: „Der Teig ist geknetet.“ (The dough is kneaded.)
  • Perfekt (present perfect):
    • Active: „Der Bäcker hat den Teig geknetet.“ (The baker has kneaded the dough.)
    • Passive: „Der Teig ist geknetet gewesen.“ (The dough has been kneaded.)
  • Präteritum (preterite/past):
    • Active: „Der Bäcker knetete den Teig.“ (The baker kneaded the dough.)
    • Passive: „Der Teig war geknetet.“ (The dough was kneaded.)
  • Plusquamperfekt (pluperfect / past perfect):
    • Active: „Der Bäcker hatte den Teig geknetet.“ (The baker had kneaded the dough.)
    • Passive: „Der Teig war geknetet gewesen.“ (The dough had been kneaded.)
  • Futur 1 (future):
    • Active: „Der Bäcker wird den Teig kneten.“ (The baker will knead the dough.)
    • Passive: „Der Teig wird geknetet sein.“ (The dough will be kneaded.)
  • Futur 2 (future perfect):
    • Active: „Der Bäcker wird den Teig geknetet haben.“ (The baker will have kneaded the dough.)
    • Passive: „Der Teig wird geknetet gewesen sein.“ (The dough will have been kneaded.)

Further explanations related to the ‘Static passive voice’

The following explanations are relating to the topic ‘Using the stative passive with ‘sein’ in German grammar’ and may be interesting as well: