The following was sent to me as an out-of-office email response:

Mitteilungen werden nicht gelesen

I know who would’ve been reading the email; there is no unknown agent; so is this strictly correct?

3 Answers 3


Yes, this is passive, and this phrase is certainly used often in office environments. The reason for the passive voice can be to convey that in fact, nobody will read this message - neither the recipient nor their secretaries, deputies, family members or the like. Writing this in active voice ("Niemand wird Ihre Mitteilung lesen.") would sound downright rude.

So by using the passive voice, the sender is able to politely concentrate on the message not being read by anyone, instead of directly specifying the parties who will not read that message (thereby possibly implying there will be somebody else who will read it anyway).

  • 2
    True that it is more polite. I've also seen "Nachrichten weden nicht weitergeleitet" as a replacement. Sep 22, 2011 at 18:46
  • 1
    And since there is no subject, there is nobody responsible, to put your blame on. Sep 23, 2011 at 4:48
  • I agree with "Niemand wird Ihre [...]" to be very rude, however, "Mitteilungen werden nicht gelesen." is only marginally more polite, since the brevity of this expression instills a sense of disinterest. "[...] nicht weitergeleitet." seems more favourable, as this disperses/cirmumvents the necessity to state anything in regards to the obligation of having to read the sender's mail.
    – user17010
    Jan 9, 2017 at 11:09

Yes, it is passive, and you can very well use the passive if the agent is known:

Die Kathedrale wurde von Gaudi gebaut.

is perfectly valid German, although I'd usually prefer the active voice in such cases.


Yes, it is passive. And yes, it is correct. Just because the agent is known doesn't mean they must be mentioned, does it?

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