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I'm learning German now and we studied in class the subject of passive voice. The German language has two forms of passive voice — “Vorgangspassiv” and “Zustandspassiv”.

In order to understand better these two subjects I want to make a parallel with English. Does English have analogues of “Vorgangspassiv” and “Zustandspassiv”? Or in a case of English, there is no separation of passive voice to two different types.

P.S. I ask this question here because I want to get the opinion of those, who are familiar with the grammar of both German and English.

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Although the question is offtopic, I will try to answer it through examples.

Vorgangspassiv

Die Tür wird geschlossen. => The door is being closed.

Die Tür wurde geschlossen. => The door has been / was being closed (if emphasizing the activity of closing) or The door has been closed (if emphasizing the result)

Zustandspassiv

Die Tür ist geschlossen. => The door is closed.

Die Tür war geschlossen. => The door was closed. depending on situation also The door has been closed.

The German grammar constructs of Vorgangs- and Zustandspassiv, thus existing different passive forms with verbs sein and werden, are a result of lacking aspects in German language. Other languages have different solutions for this, for English see here (Wikipedia) and for German see for example here (German.SE).

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I would advise you to forget the term 'passive' or 'Passiv' altogether and concentrate on the fact that in English the verb 'to be' is used in two different meanings with a past participle. 'The house was surrounded by policemen' either means they were already there waiting, or they moved into position. The first meaning (a state of affairs) would come out as 'war'; the second (involving an action/movement) would be expressed by 'wurde'.

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  • right. But why forget the term 'passive'? Sep 9, 2023 at 14:38
  • Because neither English nor German has a 'passive voice' form of the verb as in Latin. Exercises practising changing active sentences to passive and vice versa are therefore largely pointless and detract from the real issue.
    – Bernhard
    Sep 11, 2023 at 9:31

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