German Passive Voice: Processual, Statal, and Usage

In English, the passive voice can be exemplified by the following sentence: “The cake is being baked by someone.” This is in contrast to the active voice: “Someone is baking the cake.” 

The passive voice in German is much more commonly employed than in English. As a general rule, if the process rather than the subject would like to be emphasized, or if the subject is unknown or would rather not be specified, passive will be used.

The passive voice exists in two forms, namely the “processual passive” and the “statal passive”. Both of these exist in all tenses and will be detailed in the corresponding subsections below.

Processual Passive


This is the passive form used when an emphasis is placed upon the action or process. The person or thing doing the action can be known or not known, but the importance placed upon it is minimal compared to the action or process.


(1). Die Tür wird geöffnet. (The door is being opened.)

  • Perhaps this is a literary technique to draw mystery, as one does not know who is opening the door.

(2). Der Hund wurde bestraft. (The dog was punished.)

  • Presumably the owner did the punishing, but the important part of the sentence is that the dog (in this case the main character) received a punishment

Statal Passive


With this form of passive, you can emphasize the resulting state of something after an action or process.


(1). Die Tür ist geöffnet. (The door is open.)

  • Rather than the door being in the process of being opened, the door is already open

(2). Der Hund ist bestraft. (The dog is punished.)

  • The dog has done something that resulted in it being punished

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