I've got some confusion regarding the passiv. I was working my way through the Hammer's workbook, when presented with the task of replacing prespositional phrases with wenn-clauses. Here are a couple of issues causing my brain to judder:

  1. Of the 10 questions, I failed 3, and the answers all had a common theme "worden wäre". Here's an example:

Prepositional phrase given: "Bei höheren Investitionen hätten sich höhere Gewinne erzielen lassen".

To which my answer was: "Wenn mehr investiert wäre, ..." while the correct answer was "Wenn mehr investiert worden wäre, ...".

I understand that the correct answer places more emphasis on the process of investing. But then, is my answer necessarily wrong? If so, why?

  1. According to LEO, investiert is both adjective and perfect-past tense of the verb investieren. Which raises a long standing issue I've had with Zustandspassiv: looking at the sentence "Mehr Geld ist investiert", how do I know if this is an example of zustandspassiv or an adjective??

Thanks in advance, hopefully the fog can be cleared!

  • The comma in "Bei höheren Investitionen, hätten sich höhere Gewinne erzielen lassen" is wrong, "Bei höheren Investitionen" is the Vorfeld (the first part of the sentence) and there is no reason for a comma between the Vorfeld and the Verb. This is a mistake that even native speakers often make. (Maybe because of the influence of English, which uses a comma in similar sentences?)
    – RHa
    May 12, 2017 at 22:36
  • Sharp eye, @RHa , indeed, in the book there is no comma. This was my mistake in copying the text. I've fixed that up now :)
    – Matt
    May 13, 2017 at 11:17

1 Answer 1


Both expressions describe largely the same situation, but they differ in emphasis or focus, and in this scenario one kind of emphasis is much more appropriate than the other.

The Zustandspassiv focuses on the location of the sums of money in question at the time in question: a certain amount in a certain place. It disregards the way they got there. They might have been invested, left over from the generation of your ancestors and all but forgotten, accrued by compound interest from a much smaller sum of money, etc. - the Zustandspassiv doesn't say.

The normal Passiv focuses on the act of investing: someone made an investment, and now the money is there. It highlights all the consequences of investing - not just that the money is now in a certain place, but also that there is now less money in another place, or perhaps that the banker can now call it a day after a hard day of moving other people's money around.

The text in question says that higher investments would have yielded higher returns. This statement focuses on people's actions: good investing don't just happen any old way, you have to do it consciously and with insight. That is why the Zustandspassiv is inappropriate here.

The other distinction is easy: if a participle is used with 'werden', it's a normal passive (even if there is also a form of 'sein' to express perfect tense). If it's used only with 'sein' it's a Zustandspassiv.

  • Thanks Kilian Foth. That's a great answer and has really helped. I wonder if you can comment on the 'second part' of my post: with the sentence "Mehr Geld ist investiert", how does one know, at a glance, if this is an example of Zustandspassiv or a predicative style adjective??
    – Matt
    May 12, 2017 at 7:13
  • 2
    @Matt That's a much harder issue, because whether or not a form is still a passive participle or has transitioned into an adjective depends largely on its meaning. For instance, "Das Problem ist bekannt" is almost certainly an adjective, because bekannt (well-known) means something quite different from the passive of bekennen (confess). In this case I'd say investiert is still a passive participle; but you can't make this distinction based on the surface form alone. May 12, 2017 at 9:17
  • thanks for that, the core concepts have been made much clearer by your help.
    – Matt
    May 12, 2017 at 9:53
  • +1: To distinguish the two cases in your mind, it may help you trying to use "to get" instead of "to be" as an auxiliary. If more money got invested, … → true passive.
    – Janka
    May 12, 2017 at 10:30

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