Using the passive in indirect speech


  • We usually form the passive with the conjugated form of werden (to become) + past participle.

Sie renovieren das Haus. → Das Haus wird von ihnen renoviert. werden, Präsens 

They are renovating the house → The house is being renovated by them. 

  • For indirect speech (also known as reported speech), we generally use the subjunctive I for the third person singular (er/sie/es). However, we generally use the subjunctive II for all other grammatical persons. This is because the subjunctive I happens to look the same as the present tense form, so could be confused for it.

Ich sagte: „Ich habe Zeit.“ Ich sagte, ich habe haben, Konj. I Präsens hätte Zeit.haben, Konj. II Präteritum

I said, “I have time” → I said I had time (literally: “I said I would have time”).

Here is how we handle the passive in indirect speech:

  • We use the subjunctive I of werden in the third person singular: er/sie/es werde.

Sie sagten: „Die Rechnung wird bezahlt.“Sie sagten, die Rechnung werde bezahlt.

They said: “The invoice is being paid.” → They said the invoice was being paid.

Anna meint: „Die Statue wird verkauft werden.“ Anna meint, die Statue werde verkauft werden.

Anna says: “The statue will be sold.” → Anna says the statue will be sold.

  • We use the subjunctive II of werden for all other subjects. werden, Konj. II Präteritum

Sie sagt: „Die Rechnungen werden bezahlt.“ Sie sagt, die Rechnungen würden bezahlt. 

She says: “The invoices are being paid.” → She says the invoices were being paid.

Anna sagt: „Die Bilder werden verkauft werden.“Anna sagt, die Bilder würden verkauft werden.

Anna says: “The pictures will be sold.” → Anna says the pictures will be sold (literally: “would be sold”).

  • We use the subjunctive I of sein sein, Konj. I Präsens + worden if the direct speech contained the passive form of the perfect or simple past tense.

Perfekt→ Magda sagt: „Die Koffer sind ins Zimmer gebracht worden.“ Magda sagt, die Koffer seien ins Zimmer gebracht worden.

Perfect tense→ Magda says: “The suitcases have been taken into the rooms.” → Magda says the suitcases have been taken into the rooms.

Präteritum→  Magda sagte: „Die Koffer wurden ins Zimmer gebracht.“ Magda sagte, die Koffer seien ins Zimmer gebracht worden.

Simple past tense→ Magda said: “The suitcases were taken into the rooms.” → Magda said the suitcases were taken into the rooms (literally: “have been taken”).

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