I was trying to translate the following (technical) phrase:

visualisation of light passing through a birefringent material

...and I came up with this:

Visualisierung von die Übertragung polarisiertes Licht durch ein doppelbrechendes Material

a friend of mine criticized this on the grounds that "that is passiv, there is no verb so no movement, you are supposed to use dative with a noun + durch". His version was:

Visualisierung der Übertragung vom polarisierten Licht durch doppelbrechendem Material

The only Passiv I am familiar with is the one that involves werden + Partizip II, e.g. "Er wurde von mir gefragt.", so I was confused.

The question is: does any Passiv exist that applies to this case, and what would be the correct translation for this phrase?

  • 2
    I don't see much of a difference between the two versions, they are both rather broken. I also have difficulty understanding what it is you want to know here. Generally speaking, nouns and participles derived from a verb can have an active or passive meaning; e.g. a beleuchtendes Objekt is something that casts light on something else, whereas a beleuchtetes Objekt receives light from elsewhere.
    – chirlu
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 19:35
  • 2
    1) durch induces always accusative, that's not questionable. 2) That's not a sentence. There is no verb in the English example (the gernud would be rather translated as links Attributiv)
    – c.p.
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 20:38
  • My first thought was that maybe your friend had the so-called Nominalstil in mind and that you could make this phrase more understandable or so if you didn't use nouns like "Visualisierung" and "Übertragung" but verbs like "visualisieren" and "übertragen" (thus leading to a complete reconstruction of the sentence.)
    – Chris
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 21:20
  • 1
    Wo kommt das "polarisiert" her? Wenn es für die Fragestellung nicht notwendig ist würde ich es weg lassen und die Phrase möglichst einfach halten. Später die Polarisation an der richtigen Stelle einzufügen sollte ein leichtes sein. Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 14:54
  • 1
    @WalterTross: Not that this is a place for a discussion about physics, but birefringent materials may also be used to alter the polarization of light that's already polarized (e.g. linear to elliptic etc.) Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 17:43

4 Answers 4


I can't see a passive form in your English sentence. However, there's a present active participle ("passing"). In principle, one could translate this literally, because German also has these participles, but this is stylistically very awkward. So it's much better to use "bei + noun (dative)":

Visualisierung von polarisiertem Licht beim Durchgang durch ein doppelbrechendes Material

assuming that the original sentence should read "visualisation of polarized light..."

"Übertragung" means something like "transfer" and doesn't fit here.

And no, there's no passive form for nouns, neither in German nor in English. However, "durch + noun (accusative)" is used to describe the agent or instrument in a passive sentence (English "by"). Maybe that is what your friend meant? But "durch" can also be used in the sense of "through", and in "durch ein Material" it is used in the latter sense, not in the former.

  • 1
    As a physicist I would confirm that it is indeed "doppelbrechend" as the original poster used it, not "doppeltbrechend". (Otherwise 1+.)
    – Emil
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 8:41
  • @Emil: edited accordingly.
    – dirkt
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 13:09
  • As a former physicist I don't think that Übertragung (here: transmission) does not fit. It may not be the best choice for the translation, but it's not incorrect. Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 12:35

durch doppelbrechendem Material

is kinda weird. A mix of both should be fine, if you translated the words themselve correctly.

Visualisierung der Übertragung vom polarisierten Licht durch doppelbrechendes Material

  • "durch doppelbrechendem Material" ist not only weird, it's wrong, because "durch" requires the accusative.
    – RHa
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 20:42

Just some additional infos on the two translations:

From Paul

vom polarisierten Licht -> this means there is only one polarized light on the world

von polarisiertem Licht -> polarized light in general

From dirkt:

durch ein doppeltbrechendes Material - one special birefringent material that was used

durch doppeltbrechendes Material - any birefringent material in general

"Übertragung durch" sounds weird "Übertragung in .. einem Medium" would sound better.

So assuming the theory/thesis applies to any light and any birefringent material it would be:

Visualisierung der Übertragung von polarisiertem Licht in doppeltbrechendem Material

And now it depends if you are visualizing the transfer or the light, this works too:

Visualisierung von polarisiertem Licht in doppeltbrechendem Material

I am sorry that I don't know if it is passive+dativ, maybe someone can edit that in, making the answer community wiki.

  • I understood "through a birefringent material" to mean one particular material (hence "ein ... Material"), otherwise I would have expected "through birefringent materials" (i.e. any material in general)
    – dirkt
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 6:16
Q: visualisation of light passing through a birefringent material

Das Hantieren mit "von" lenkt nur vom Genitiv ab.

Visualisierung der Lichtübertragung durch ein doppelbrechendes Material

Die Lichtübertragung wird sichtbar dargestellt. Darstellung des Lichts, nicht von dem Licht. Letzteres hört man zwar oft, ist aber schwacher Stil.

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