Werden is a word widely used in German conversations. It is used in passive constructions, as you will discover. Then you will realize it is used in the future tense. Master the seven distinct uses of werden listed below, and you will gain access to seven new grammatical forms and seven new ways of expressing yourself in German.
Let’s start with the fundamentals: Conjugation. Werden is used in different tenses depending on its grammatical function, and it is important to understand those before proceeding.
Conjugation of werden in present tense
Here is how you conjugate werden in the present tense:
- ich werde
- du wirst
- Sie werden
- er wird
- wir werden
- ihr werdet
- Sie werden
Conjugation of werden in literary past tense
The literary past tense, also known as das Präteritum, is conjugated as follows:
- ich wurde
- du wurdest
- Sie wurden
- er wurde
- wir wurden
- ihr wurdet
- Sie wurden
Conjugation of werden in subjunctive
The following is how you conjugate werden in subjunctive, also known as Konjuntiv II:
- ich würde
- du würdest
- Sie würden
- er würde
- wir würden
- ihr würdet
- Sie würden
Let us proceed and learn how to use these various forms.
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We have organized the use of werden in German in a form of a table.
|As a regular verb||Er wird Arzt.||He is becoming a doctor.|
|In the formation of the future tense||Ich werde nach Deutschland reisen.||I will travel to Germany.|
|In the formation of multiple tenses of the passive voice||Das Haus wird gebaut.||The house is being built.|
|In the subjunctive||Ich würde das nicht machen.||I wouldn’t do that.|
|To imply attitudes about certainty||Sie wird sicher krank sein.||She is surely sick.|
|To imply probability||Er wird gerade bei Peter sein.||He is probably at Peter’s right now.|
|To give a command||Du wirst jetzt sofort kommen!||You need to come now!|
1. Werden as a Vollverb
What does werden mean when it is used in the present tense? Werden means “to develop.” A beginner German learner may believe that bekommen means “to become,” but beware! Becoming is a bad friend (false friend). Its literal meaning is “to receive.”
Wennen is the word to use to indicate that something is in the process of becoming something else. Wenn you want to say you’re sick, use werden.
- Ich werde Krank.
- I’m getting sick.
Wenn is used to express someone starting a new career, such as becoming a doctor.
- Er wird Arzt.
- He’s becoming a doctor.
If you want to talk about something that changed into something else in the recent past, you can create the present perfect tense (Perfekt) with the Particip II of werden: geworden.
- Ich bin Journalistin geworden.
- I became a journalist.
Because werden is a changeable word, use sein rather than haben to form the present perfect tense.
Use the Präteritum forms above to discuss something that became something else in the simple past (as is common in literary forms or history books).
- Goethe wurde Schriftsteller.
- Goethe became a writer.
2. Passive constructions of Werden
Passive construction is one in which the subject of the sentence is acted upon by something other than the subject of the sentence.
In German, combine the present tense of werden with the Particip II version of a verb to form a present tense passive construction.
- Das Haus wird gebaut.
- The house is being built.
In German, you could use either Perfekt or Präteritum to form a past passive construction. Use the Particip II of the verb plus worden in Perfekt. For example:
- Das Haus ist gebaut worden.
- The house was being built.
You would use the Präteritum version of werden plus the Particip II in Präteritum, or literary past tense. For example:
- Der Song wurde von den Beatles gesungen.
- The song was sung by the Beatles.
3. Werden in Konjunktiv II form
These expressions are used to express something that isn’t real: a wish, a hope, or an improbable situation. How do you make these structures? There are eight verbs that have their own Konjunctiv II forms, but the rest of the time you use werden plus the verb’s infinitive. Here are some examples:
- Wenn ich das machen würde…
- If I did that…
- Ich würde Sie ja gerne mitnehmen, wenn Sie Zeit hätten.
- I would gladly take you with me if you had time.
- Wenn ich Geld hätte, würde ich einen Kaffee trinken.
- If I had money, I would drink a coffee.
4. Talking about the future with Werden
Germans use werden plus the infinitive form of a verb to talk about the future.
- Im August werde ich in den USA Urlaub machen.
- In August, I am going to the USA for a vacation.
Germans don’t use the future tense very often. Germans are much more likely to use the present tense and imply the future with context clues. For example:
- Morgen koche ich etwas.
- Tomorrow, I’m cooking something.
But it’s still important to understand the future tense and how to distinguish it from the other forms of werden plus infinitive.
5. Implying attitudes about the certainty with Werden
Werden plus infinitive can also be used to discuss guarantees, which are also known as Sicherheit (security).
- Sie wird garantiert krank sein.
- She’s definitely sick.
How do you tell the difference between a sentence about certainty and a sentence about the future? It’s all about the context words, words like “certainly” or “certainly not.” The following words can be considered indicators of certainty.
- Sicher – surely
- Bestimmt – definitely
- Sicherlich – certainly
- Gewiss – assuredly
- mit Sicherheit – with certainty
- garantiert – guaranteed
- auf jeden Fall- absolutely
6. Implying probability with Werden
You can use werden plus infinitive to talk about probabilities in the same way that you can talk about guarantees. For example:
- Maria wird gerade am Strand liegen.
- Maria is probably lying on the beach right now.
The following words can be used as indicators of probability:
- Vermutlich – presumably
- Wahrscheinlich – probably
- Vielleicht – maybe
- Möglicherweise – possibly
- Wohl – surely
7. Giving commands with Werden
Werden plus infinitive constructions can be used to issue a command to someone.
- Du wirst jetzt sofort kommen!
- You need to come now!
This is a tougher and more official form of command than an Imperativ command. While werden may appear difficult at first, with practice, you will soon be using the word like a native German speaker.
Many people get asked which language has more practical application. For example, a large number of people are confused about Spanish vs. German (regarding which one is better). Selecting the language depends upon your purpose of learning a foreign language.
If you are planning to visit Germany, learning different Germans words and their use, for example, werden in German, will help you formal and informal conversations effortlessly and that too, without any error.
To achieve all your German-speaking goals, get in touch with italki, here the German instructors will guide the right means to conjugate German words, improve your German vocabulary list, improve German grammar, and most importantly your ability to hold several formal as well as informal conversations in German. italki will give you the confidence you need to speak German in public just like native speakers.
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