I would like to show examples first of all. I have been confused over months.

  • sein

Present: Ich bin verabredet. Past: Ich war verabredet.

  • werden

Present: Ich werde überholt. Past: Ich wurde überholt. => to avoid confusion, I would like to change the example to - My Auto wurde überholt.

The question is, why in the second example I cannot say: ich bin oder war überholt? How could I better understand the sein and werden here.


2 Answers 2


In your context "werden" is a passive operation (Vorgangspassiv), where something is happing and "sein" is a passive state (Zustandspassiv), where something just is.

"Verabredet sein" is a state, you are 'verabredet'

"Überholt werden" is an operation, you are being 'überholt'

  • Side note: Since I don't know the translations of 'Vorgangs-' and Zustandspassiv' I just used google translate, so they may be not correctly translated
    – Nanogamer7
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:32

The difference is the one between überholen and überholt sein, which are totally different!

Überholen means to overtake/pass, like The car overtook/passed us at great speed. Überholt sein means to be outdated, like This version is outdated (get the most recent one).

You can only build a passive form of überholen, überholt sein is some kind of idiom which takes überholt as an attribute/adverb and not as a participle. So überholt is context sensitive, in connection with sein it is an attribute/adverb and in connection with werden it is a participle.

Ich bin überholt would mean I am outdated, which would most likely not be said by anyone ;-) Ich bin überholt worden means Someone has overtaken/passed me (because he is faster in the race still happening).

  • 1
    I disagree. The different meanings of 'überholen' are not distinctive based on grammatical context. 'Ich wurde überholt' can just as well mean 'I was overtaken', 'I was superseded' or 'I was overhauled'.
    – jarnbjo
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:37
  • OK, mentioning the context may be misunderstood. I meant the context related to the content of a sentence rather than a grammatical context. And of course, "Ich wurde überholt" can just mean what you wrote, but will still be different to "Ich bin überholt" (without "worden").
    – deHaar
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:52
  • 1
    'Ich bin überholt' can just as well mean 'I am overtaken', 'I am superseded' or 'I am overhauled'. The meaning of 'überholen' is simply not related to the choice of grammatical voice or tense.
    – jarnbjo
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 15:04
  • There is definitely a difference in meaning between just jemanden überholen, etwas überholen and überholt sein, so the context is relevant...
    – deHaar
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 16:47
  • 2
    From a grammatical or language viewpoint, the statement is valid. Not everything you can express with a language actually makes logical sense. Google will find you a few thousand examples on how 'I am overhauled' is actually used, be it funny, sarcastic or figuratively.
    – jarnbjo
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 8:52

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