Verbs: the Passive
What do we mean by "the Passive"?
In a sentence that contains a "passive" verb construction, the subject
of the verb isn't doing anything itself. Something is being done to it.
In a sentence that uses the "active" verb construction, the subject is doing something - it's actively doing the verb action. See these examples in English:
"ACTIVE" SENTENCE: Roger Federer is beating Lleyton Hewitt at the moment .
"PASSIVE" SENTENCE: Lleyton Hewitt is being/is getting beaten by Roger Federer at the moment.
Notice that the object in the active sentence has become the subject of the passive sentence.
The passive is often used in order to focus the reader's or listener's attention
on the thing/person which something is being/getting done to.
Sometimes it is used in order to avoid mentioning by whom it was done .
e.g. Lleyton Hewitt is being/is getting beaten. (You can leave out "by whom")
In the media/journalism the passive is often used by reporters when they are not allowed by law to mention yet by whom something was done, or when they simply don't know yet by whom something was done, because the passive allows you to leave out by whom if you want to.
e.g. The bank in High St. was/got robbed last night.
The passive is formed/used by using the verb WERDEN (in whichever tense is
appropriate, e.g. present, perfect etc.), and the participle of the other relevant
You can check the participle of strong verbs in the Strong Verb List. If not in the list, it's a weak verb, works like machen = gemacht.
|+ participle (e.g. gemacht)|
e.g. ACTIVE: Die Mutter macht den Hochzeitskuchen (The
mother makes/is making the wedding cake)
machen participle = gemacht
PASSIVE: Der Hochzeitskuchen wird von der Mutter gemacht. (The wedding cake is being/is getting made by the mother)
e.g. ACTIVE: Die Hawthorn-Fußballspieler (plural) feiern einen großen Sieg! (The Hawthorn footballers are celebrating a
feiern (to celebrate) participle = gefeiert
PASSIVE: Ein großer Sieg wird von den (plural) Hawthorn-Fußballspielern gefeiert! (A great victory is being celebrated by the Hawthorn players!)
In German, the by in the passive is expressed with von + DATIVE, if it is by a person/people
|von||einem||einer||einem||_ _ _|
If it is done by an inanimate thing (e.g., by the weather, by a computer),
then the by is expressed by durch + ACCUSATIVE
|durch||einen||eine||ein||_ _ _|
Remember that in the Passive you can leave out by whom something will be done, as in the official sign below, on a river bank in the city of Passau, Germany:
Present Tense exercises (D Nutting)