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I have translated be born into German. I have two translations: geboren sein and geboren werden.

I am studying the difference between them.

Can they both be used to refer to the past (‘Peter was born in September 1997.’) and the future (‘The baby will be born in January’)?

  • I like your question because I'm a native German and I always say „Ich bin im April geboren“ but very often hear people saying „Ich wurde im April geboren“. I'm not sure whether one is right and one is wrong or whether they're just different habits. A related question is german.stackexchange.com/q/24742/22180. – PerlDuck Oct 22 '16 at 18:20
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German has two different types of passive voice:

Vorgangspassiv

  • past tense

    Ich wurde geboren.
    Das Projekt wurde fertig.

  • present tense

    Ich werde geboren.
    Das Projekt wird fertig.

  • future tense

    Ich werde geboren werden.
    Das Projekt wird fertig werden.

»Vorgangspassiv« is »passiv of action«. It describes an action that happens to the subject, i.e something is happening, and the sentences subject is the thing that has to endure the action.


Zustandspassiv

  • past tense

    Ich war geboren.
    Das Projekt war fertig.

  • present tense

    Ich bin geboren.
    Das Projekt ist fertig.

  • future tense

    Ich werde geboren sein.
    Das Projekt wird fertig sein.

»Zustandspassiv« is »passive of state«. It doesn't describe an action, but a state. It describes the state in which the sentences subject is. No action is happening here, nobody has to endure something.


If you say »Ich wurde geboren« then it is Vorgangspassiv in past tense. Something happened to you in the past (you were given birth). It was an action in the past that you had to endure.

If you say »Ich bin geboren« then it is Zustandspassiv in present tense. You tell, that you are now (not in the past) in a certain state, and this state is »born«.

I think, english has no Zustandspassiv (but i'm not sure, it's a foreign language to me), so every english sentence in passive voice will end up in an German sentence in Vorgangspassiv:

Peter was born in September 1997. (You are talking about an action that happened 1997.)
Peter wurde im September 1997 geboren. <- Vorgangspassiv in der Vergangenheit.

also:

The baby will be born in January. (You again are talking about a action)
Das Baby wird im Jänner geboren werden. <- Vorgangspassiv in der Zukunft.

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