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False passive

Hi again!

I am hoping that someone may be able to explain the premise behind ‘the false passive’ in German as I am finding it very difficult to understand.

I would write the sentences;

1. The house is destroyed
2. The house was destroyed

in German as follows;

1. Das Hause wird zerstört (present passive)
2. Das Haus wurde zerstört. (imperfect passive)

However, the information that I have read on the passive says that these translations are incorrect, describing them as ‘false passives’ and that they should be correctly written as;

1. Das Haus ist zerstört
2. Das Hause war zerstört

but unfortunately doesn’t give a proper explanation as to why this is the case.

This seems to be totally contrary to what I have learned in forming the passive and am now totally confused.

I have incidentally, from a different source, found an almost identical sentence;

‘The window was opened’

Translated as;

‘Das Fenster wurde aufgemacht’

which obviously uses the passive.

Obviously I am missing something here, perhaps very easy and obvious, but which unfortunately I cannot understand and hope that someone may be kind enough to explain it to me!



For learning: German
Base language: English
Category: Language



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    There are two kinds of passive in German, the "Vorgangspassiv" describing an action (using "werden"), and the "Resultatspassiv" describing an result (using "sein").

    Das Haus wird/wurde zerstört: Vorgangspassiv, it's about the action.

    Das Haus ist/war zerstört: Resultatsperfekt, what matters is the result.

    I think calling one of them 'false passive' may be a bit confusing.

    It's the same for your other example:

    Das Fenster wurde aufgemacht/geöffnet: Vorgangsperfekt, emphasis on the fact that someone opened it (but of course now it's open).

    Das Fenster ist aufgemacht/geöffnet: Resultatsperfekt, emphasis on the result, namely that it's open now.

    The tense is not important, except that (as in the above example) the result of a past Vorgangsperfekt can also of course be observed in the present.

    The house is destroyed. => Das Haus ist zerstört. (static passive / present)

    The house is being destroyed. => Das Haus wird zerstört. (dynamic passive / present)

    The house was destroyed. => Das Haus wurde zerstört. (dynamic passive / past)

    The window was opened. => Das Fenster wurde geöffnet. (dynamic passive / past)

    The window is open. => Das Fenster ist offen. (static passive / present)

    I hope this explains the difference.

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