German Passive Voice with Modal Verbs
Want to know who did those things? Not in passive sentences. We seem to put more emphasis on the actions instead. When those actions involve a modal verb (should, can, must), then nothing really gets too complicated.
German is pretty similar, remember we don't use the auxiliary "to be" but werden instead.
Although there are passive voice alternatives, most typically the German passive voice is formed with the auxiliary verb “werden” and the participle of another verb. (Passiv Präsens) This form of the German voice is processual, which is used to express an action or process, as opposed to “statal”, which is used to express a completed action.
1. Review of the Passiv Präsens
To form the “Passiv Präsens”, we need to remember the conjugation of the verb “werden”:
To most accurately translate a sentence in the processual German Passiv Präsens, we would say “is being done”.
Die Geschenke werden verpackt. (participle of “verpacken”)
The presents are being wrapped.
Der Hund wird vom Tierarzt untersucht. (participle of “untersuchen”)
The dog is being examined by the vet.
2. The “Passiv Präsens” with Modal Verbs
Adding modal verbs to a sentence in the processual Passiv Präsens changes the formula slightly. Instead of using “werden + participle”, we now need to add a conjugated modal verb, which kicks the second verb (werden) to the end of the clause or sentence in the infinitive. The remaining participle is placed before “werden” in the infinitive.
The formula is “modal verb + participle + werden in the infinitive”
Die Geschenke müssen verpackt werden.
The presents must be wrapped.
Der Hund soll vom Tierarzt untersucht werden.
The dog should be examined by the vet.
3. The Passive Voice in the Preterit
To change from the present tense to the German simple past, all we need to is change the tense of “werden”, to “wurden”. We then add the participle of the other verb, the same way we do for the passive voice in the present tense.
The most accurate translation of the passive voice in the preterit is “was/were bring done”.
Die Geschenke wurden verpackt. (participle of “verpacken”)
The presents were being wrapped.
Der Hund wurde vom Tierarzt untersucht. (participle of “untersuchen”)The dog was being examined by the vet.
4. Passive Voice in the Past Tense with Modal Verbs.
To form sentences in the passive voice in the past tense with modal verbs, we will use the same formula from above:
“modal verb + participle + werden in the infinitive”
We then simply change the tense of the modal verb from the present tense to the preterit. (Modal verbs in the Preterit)
Die Geschenke mussten verpackt werden.
The presents had to be wrapped.
Der Hund sollte vom Tierarzt untersucht werden.
The dog was suposed to be examined by the vet.
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