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How does one know when to use wurde vs war in forming sentences like the following?

My book gave an example for I was robbed as being

Ich wurde ausgeraubt

but wouldn't that translate to I became robbed with the verb of werden?

Why didn't they use Ich war ausgeraubt in that context?

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maybe ausgeraubt is a bad example.. I think enttäuscht makes things much easier to understand, as there is no english equivalent of the "state of having been robbed" – Vogel612 Feb 7 '14 at 10:53
up vote 11 down vote accepted

I don't quite agree with the other two answers.

Even in English, "I was robbed" is usually not the past tense of the state of "being robbed", but rather understood to mean that someone robbed you. That is, "I was robbed" is the passive voice (in the past tense) of "to rob".

Same in German. "Ich wurde ausgeraubt" is the correct passive construction (in the Präteritum/simple past) of "ausrauben". The Perfekt/perfect tense construction would be "Ich bin ausgeraubt worden".

Compare the Perfekt/perfect tense of the "wrong" interpretation: "Ich bin ausgeraubt gewesen".

English conflates the two, both in the past and perfect tenses. I.e. you only have "I was robbed" and "I have been robbed".

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Der Vorgang, der in der Vergangenheit stattfand:

Ich wurde ausgeraubt.

Der Zustand danach:

Ich war ausgeraubt.


Nach dem Drink verlor ich das Bewusstsein. Auf einem verschmutzten Parkplatz kam ich zu mir. Die Geldbörse fehlte, der Autoschlüssel, die goldene Uhr - ich war ausgeraubt. Ich schleppte mich zur nächsten Wache und betrat sie mit einem "Guten Abend, ich wurde ausgeraubt!".

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While "werden" has the meaning become,

Ich werde rot, wenn ich mich schäme. (I blush [turn red] when I feel ashamed)

it is also the auxiliary that is used to express passive voice (Partizip perfekt + werden), while the construction in English is to be + past participle.

Ich werde ausgeraubt. (I am being robbed)

There is no semantic relation between this construction with the full verb werden (to become) (other than the state change by being the object of an action, as Tom Au expressed in his answer), just as there is no such relation between haben + Partizip perfekt for perfect tense and the full verb haben that expresses ownership (same in English).

While we are at it, you probably already learned that some verbs build their perfect tense with sein instead of haben ("ich habe geschlafen", but "ich bin eingeschlafen"). And finally you may sometimes see forms of sein + Partizip perfekt (e.g. "ich bin gespannt, was jetzt passiert") that do not express perfect tense (nor passive voice), but rather the participle is understood as an adjective. (unless of

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Unless of what? – Vogel612 Feb 6 '14 at 23:18
werden ist in diesem Zusammenhang nicht "to become", es ist Passiv. – Robert Feb 6 '14 at 23:28

"Wurde" is a "change of state" verb. That is, you went from being "not robbed," to being "robbed."

So your understanding of "Ich wurde ausgeraubt

[ translating to] I became robbed with the verb of werden?" appears correct.

Some more examples:

Ich wurde alt. I became old.

But, Ich war jung. I WAS young (originally).

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Thanks, but I still don't understand how it can't be "Ich war ausgeraubt"? Does it mean it happened in the past, ie "many years ago I was robbed"? versus the use of werden as in "help, police, I was just robbed"? – user5105 Feb 6 '14 at 20:57
@user5105: In your "virgin" state, you have never been robbed. Once you have been robbed, you're no longer a "virgin" (in regards to this matter). – Tom Au Feb 6 '14 at 21:00
Here "wurde" doesn't mean a change of state of "being robbed" and "I became robbed" is not a valid translation. – Earthliŋ Feb 7 '14 at 0:26

Ich wurde ausgeraubt -> I got robbed. Ich war ausgeraubt -> I've been robbed earlier (and still don't have my stuff back).

Beispiele: Wenn man den Raub auf der Polizeiwache meldet, sagt man "ich wurde (gerade eben) ausgeraubt". Wenn man etwas anderes erzählt und erwähnt, dass man ausgeraubt war, könnte man sagen "ich war schon 5 Minuten vorher ausgeraubt, aber hinter der nächsten Ecke stand schon wieder einer mit einem Messer". Die meisten Leute würden wahrscheinlich (erst recht im Gesprochenen) sagen "ich bin vor 5 Minuten schon ausgeraubt worden..."

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"ich war ausgeraubt" ist meiner Meinung nach kein korrektes deutsch, da muss doch "worden" hinter..? also, wenn man "war" überhaupt mit "ausgeraubt" benutzen will, das ist ja ein rein passives Wort.. – christian.s Feb 7 '14 at 7:13
"Ich bin ausgeraubt" wäre es, wenn man sein Zeug noch nicht zurück hat. Bei "ich war" kann es anders sein. – user unknown Feb 19 '15 at 15:25

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