I started self-learning German recently, so this will be clearer someday. But I'm curious, so I'm asking it here now.
When I use Google Translate, I get the following translations:

  1. It will grow colder. => Es wird kälter.
  2. It will be colder => Es wird kälter sein.

In sentence 1, wird means will grow or wird here has both the function of auxiliary verb (=will) and the main verb (=grow or become).
But in sentence 2, wird functions as pure auxiliary verb (=will) and there is the separate main verb sein (=to be).
When is werden used as will and when is it used as will be?

  • I tried to make your question a bit more clear. However, I had to guess a couple of times. For example, when you talked about the first sentence, you already mentioned "to be" which doesn't appear in your first sentence. So, I assume that you actually already knew that "will" can be auxiliary and main verb. — If any of my changes doesn't apply to your intent, please correct it; or feel free to rollback my change altogether.
    – Em1
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 8:15
  • Besides, "will be" is never translated as plainly "werden". And your example sentence translates it as "wird sein". So, I'm not sure why you mention that in the title (where I didn't fix it) and in the body (where you mentioned it in reference to sentence 1 which doesn't have the idea of "to be" in both the English and the German sentence).
    – Em1
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 8:18
  • In sentence 1, wird means 'will become', in sentence 2, it means just 'will'.I'm not still sure if 'werden' itself can be used 'will be'. and I'm not a student :)
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 9:10

3 Answers 3


Note your translation isn't quite right:

It will grow colder

translates to

Es wird kälter werden (1)

(Future tense)

Es wird kälter translates to "It is growing colder" (2)

(Present tense, continuous form in English)

"Werden" can be a full verb translating into to grow or to become or an auxiliary that is used to build the future tense. Which is which can be found by the presence of an infinitive ("werden" or "sein" in your example).

  • I understand. But If "Werden" can be a full verb with future meaning, can't we just write "Es wird Kälter" ? Is it grammatically wrong?
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 9:06
  • 1
    @ChanKim: Read the answer again. Es wird kälter is grammatically correct, but has a different meaning. Also kälter is not written with a capital K.
    – raznagul
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 10:58
  • I see. I'll understand it as "weden" has two functions. auxihilary verb "will" and simple verb "become(or is getting)". We can combine two werden to make (redundantly) "will become". :)
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 14:13

The verb to grow has the meaning of to become. And since to become is translated as werden, that is also a good translation for to grow.

Now, with that being said, the first sentence would be translated as

Es wird kälter werden.

But you can omit the idea of to will. In a verbatim sense, you say "It grows colder", then.

Note, however, that the reverse translation "Es wird kälter" could also be "It's growing colder" which has a slightly different meaning. So, context might be important.

For example:

Der Wetterbericht sagt, dass es kälter (werden) wird.
=> It will grow colder.
Note, using werden is uncommon.

Uhhh, frisch ist es heute. Es wird spürbar kälter.
=> It's growing colder.

  • Yes now I think I understand it. So to speak weden has the meaning of "will" and "become". Of course we can use it twice to make it "will become". Isn't this correct? I checked it up in a dictionary.
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 14:10

The verb werden is an interesting one. It can be both a full verb meaning to become or it can be an auxiliary verb used to indicate future tense.

In the first of your two examples, the meaning of the English verb is comparable to to become. Hence, one can use the full verb werden to phrase this in German.

It’s growing colder → Es wird kälter.

In the second of your examples, the machine translation used werden, the auxiliary, to indicate future tense much like the auxiliary will in English.

It will be colder → Es wird kälter sein.

The key here is that the machine translation — while undoubtedly generating correct German sentences — decided to render the English future tense differently in both examples. English is relatively strict when it comes to using future tense: if the topic of the sentence is something in the future, future tense should be used except in rare examples when present tense is permissive. French is even stricter and future tenses are always used when talking about the future (but in French the future tense is not an auxiliary-dependent tense but generated by inflection; if an inflected tense exists for a certain direction of time the language will probably require using it, as a very general rule).

In German, however, the aspect of future is typically encoded semantically and not grammatically. An adverbial of time signifying some point in the future (e.g. morgen, tomorrow), a verb that from its meaning alone already points into the future or any other semantic clue that we are talking about the future is sufficient to encode the information future — future tense is used rather rarely.

Let’s take another look at the two German sentences. Werden — the full verb — means to become i.e. it indicates a process that starts at a given point and ends at a different point. If used in present tense, the starting point could be anywhere (past, present or future) but the end point will always be in the future. Thus, simply by our choice of verb we have encoded the information future into our sentence and marking the future tense by using werden, the auxiliary, is not necessary (but permitted!). (If the end point were a point in the past or at present, past tense of werden, the full verb, would be used.)

Sein, however, indicates a status that is typically interpreted to be ongoing. Without any additional semantic information, the present tense of sein is indeed assumed to be present. Hence, if you only have the information present in the English original and want to preserve the information that you are speaking about the future, sein must be in future tense by using the auxiliary werden. However, if you decide to use any other information that encodes future (see example below) you can again skip back to present tense.

Tomorrow it will be colder. → Morgen ist es kälter. (less common)

Tomorrow it will snow. → Morgen schneit es. (more common)

(During the process of writing this up, I realised what a good job the translation machine did with these sentences.)

I mentioned above that encoding future by tense is unnecessary when dealing with something semantic that indicates future. It is, however, possible and sometimes used to emphasise the future aspect. For example, it is not wrong (and even sufficiently common) to use werden in future tense in the first sentence:

Es wird kälter werden.

  • Thanks for the kind explanation. So I understand, to be exact, 'werden' translates grammatically to 'will' or 'become' of English.
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 0:28

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