The Passive Voice

The passive in German always involves at least one form of the verb werden, and sometimes also a form of sein. There are no conjugation tables in this section because we’ll only be using forms of werden and sein that we’ve already covered; learning the passive is not a matter of learning new endings, it’s about understanding the structure and word order of a passive clause. To highlight this, we’ll use the same sentence in all eight forms.

The present and simple past use the present and past conjugations of werden, respectively:

Die Wohnung wird durchsucht.
The apartment is [being] searched.
Die Wohnung wurde durchsucht.
The apartment was searched.

The Perfect tenses use sein with the participle and worden (a short form of werden’s participle geworden). Remember that the Perfekt translates the same as the Präteritum form above:

Die Wohnung ist durchsucht worden.
The apartment was searched.
Die Wohnung war durchsucht worden.
The apartment had been searched.

The future tense uses werden in the present tense, then the participle and another werden in the infinitive. The future perfect adds sein:

Die Wohnung wird durchsucht werden.
The apartment will be searched.
Die Wohnung wird durchsucht worden sein.
The apartment will have been searched.

Finally, the conditional forms of the passive use either the Konjunktiv I form of werden or the Konjunktiv II form of sein, as follows:

Die Wohnung würde durchsucht werden.
The apartment would be searched.
Die Wohnung wäre durchsucht worden.
The apartment would have been searched.

A few descriptive past participles are so common that they’ve essentially become adjectives, and you can use them without invoking the passive voice at all:

Ich bin [not werde] beeindruckt!
I’m impressed!
Er ist [not wird] geschieden.
He's divorced.