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Flashcards in Problems with the Passive Deck (2)
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1

False Passive

Grammatically, the false passive is the same as sein + an adjective.  This construction describes a condition rather than an action.  Das Haus ist verkauft is the false passive, while das Haus wird verkauft is the true passive.  The false passive sentence indicates that the house is already sold (condition), while the true passive indicates the house is in the process of being sold (action).

2

Passive with Absentee Subjects

Passive forms may have a definite or indefinite subject, or no apparent subject at all.  The accusative object of an active sentence becomes the nominative subject of the passive sentence.  But sometimes there is no accusative object.  Since a verb cannot be in the first position of sentence without turning the sentence into a question, es is used as the subject.  

Man antwortet ihnen nicht is an active sentence, but if it were turned into the passive, there would be no accusative object.  The passive would have to be es wird ihnen nicht geantwortet.  (Here werden agrees with the apparent subject, es.)

But if another element, such as a dative object or time expression, can be put in the first position, then es is omitted.  Ihnen wird nicht geantwortet can also be used as the passive.  There is no apparent subject, only an implied es, so the form of werden remains wird to agree with es.

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