Differences between active and passive


The passive, also called the passive voice, stands in contrast to the active (voice):

• A sentence in the active stresses who or what is the ‘doer’ of the action:
Der Gärtner gießt die Blumen. The gardener is watering the flowers.
• The focus of a sentence in the passive is on the action, not the ‘doer’:
Die Blumen werden vom Gärtner gegossen. The flowers are being watered by the gardener.

Formation – an overview

Most passive constructions in German consist of the appropriate form of werden + past participle of the relevant verb:

Der Bundestag wird alle vier Jahre gewählt.
The German Parliament is elected every four years.

Der Oscar wurde von Martin Scorsese gewonnen.
The Oscar was won by Martin Scorcese.

The formation, usage and the different tenses of the passive will be explained in the following sections.