Verbs: Active and Passive Voice

When we speak of verbs, one term we use is "voice." We speak of the "active voice" and the "passive voice."

 

Active Passive

When we use the active voice, the subject does the acting:

The dog bites the boy.

The subject (the dog) is doing the acting (biting).

Der Hund beißt den Jungen.

When we use the passive voice, the subject is passive; that is, the subject is receiving the action:

The boy is being bitten by the dog.

The subject (the boy) is receiving the action (biting).

Der Junge wird von dem Hund gebissen.

When we speak of verbs, we use the term "person." We speak of first, second, and third person singular and plural.

 

 SingularPlural
first personI — ichwe — wir
second personyou — duyou — ihr
third personhe — er
she — sie
it — er, es, sie
they — sie

Remember that the second person formal takes the same form as third person plural; just capitalize the words (you — Sie).
 

When we speak of verbs, we use the term "tense." We speak of present, past (imperfect), present perfect, past perfect, future, and future perfect.
 

We can use all persons and all tenses in both active and passive voice. The examples that follow are given in third person singular. Remember that the imperfect and present perfect are often interchangeable in German when they aren't in English.

 Active Passive
present
  • The dog bites the boy.
  • Der Hund beißt den Jungen.
  • The boy is being bitten by the dog.
  • Der Junge wird von dem Hund gebissen.
imperfect
  • The dog bit the boy.
  • Der Hund biss den Jungen.
  • The boy was bitten by the dog.
  • Der Junge wurde von dem Hund gebissen.
present perfect
  • The dog has bitten the boy.
  • Der Hund hat den Jungen gebissen.
  • The boy has been bitten by the dog.
  • Der Junge ist von dem Hund gebissen worden.
past perfect
  • The dog had bitten the boy.
  • Der Hund hatte den Jungen gebissen.
  • The boy had been bitten by the dog.
  • Der Junge war von dem Hund gebissen worden.
future
  • The dog will bite the boy.
  • Der Hund wird den Jungen beißen.
  • The boy will be bitten by the dog.
  • Der Junge wird von dem Hund gebissen werden.
future perfect
  • The dog will have bitten the boy.
  • Der Hund wird den Jungen gebissen haben.
  • The boy will be bitten by the dog.
  • Der Junge wird von dem Hund gebissen werden.
Notice: To write active and passive sentences, follow the patterns above. Choose the correct form of the verb to match the subject.