Basically, according to the proper rules of German, the sentence should be:

Den Kindern wurde geholfen

But my German teacher said that he had never heard of this rule and he would simply say

Den Kindern wurden geholfen

So, the first one is technically right, but is this a rule most Germans are aware of ? Which one would an actual German say? Danke.

  • 5
    Find the subject. Hint: It is not there and it is "Es". And that is singular. This construct is called "Subjektloser Passivsatz". And the second sentence looks wrong, sounds wrong and feels wrong. Strong clue it could be wrong ;)
    – tofro
    Mar 21, 2016 at 23:20
  • 4
    Most Germans will not be aware of a rule, they will just correctly use singular ;)
    – Carsten S
    Mar 22, 2016 at 6:59
  • An (almost confusing) wealth here. Glad I'm a native speaker..!
    – TaW
    Mar 22, 2016 at 18:25

2 Answers 2


The second example is wrong. No one would ever use it.

First example: This construct is called "Subjektloser Passivsatz". This occurs when there is no subject in the sentence and this non-existing subject can be replaced with "Es" like in

Es wurde den Kindern geholfen

"Es" is definitely singular and thus the predicate must be singular.

  • 1
    Your way of saying first: ... second and first example is very confusing. Can you rephrase that to be less ambiguous?
    – simbabque
    Mar 22, 2016 at 11:06

I'm a native German speaker and would definitely say "Den Kindern wurde geholfen", and I'd also definitely NEVER say "Den Kindern wurden geholfen". But, please, don't ask me why... ;-)

  • 1
    Ok, thanks! I know why it is, it is just that like I said my German teacher said he didn't know about this rule and wouldn't use it... But if native speakers use it, then that is great so thanks! Mar 21, 2016 at 23:15
  • 1
    If your teacher still doesn't follow your arguments, let him google this "google.de/search?q=den+kindern+wurde+geholfen" ;-)
    – Thomas
    Mar 22, 2016 at 5:41
  • 2
    Even more visual: googlefight.com/… this'd be the n-gram viewer for the poor Mar 22, 2016 at 8:07
  • Plus 10,000,000 for GoogleFight. i didn't know of it until now (es wurde mir geholfen ;-)
    – Mawg
    Mar 22, 2016 at 10:46

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