With the sentences

Die Eltern konnten nicht mehr schlafen, nachdem das Baby geboren war.

Ihr habt euer Auto beschleunigt, nachdem der Regen gestoppt hatte.

I'm struggling to work out when to use "sein" or "haben" to form the Plusquamperfekt.

I originally would have said

Die Eltern konnten nicht mehr schlafen, nachdem das Baby geboren hat.

i.e. "the parents could not sleep anymore, after the baby had been born"

What reasoning is there to choose between "sein" or "haben"?


3 Answers 3


Gebären (Perfect particile: geboren) is transitive. Because of this, combining sein and the perfect participle gives you passive (Zustandspassiv, to be accurate), not Perfekt or Plusquamperfekt.

Which is what you want here. It's the same as in English: You say that a baby is born, not that is has born. That's what "Das Baby hat geboren" means, which is obviously wrong.


The verb gebären builds its Perfekt and Plusquamperfekt with the haben auxiliary.

Sie hat gestern einen Jungen geboren. Sie hatte zwei Jahre zuvor ein Mädchen geboren.

So, using war isn't Plusquamperfekt but static passive voice ("Zustandspassiv").

Nachdem sie das Kind geboren hatte gab es eine Feier. (active, pluperfect)

Nachdem das Kind geboren war gab es eine Feier. (static passive, simple past)

Nachdem das Kind geboren gewesen ist gab es eine Feier. (static passive, perfect)

Nachdem das Kind geboren gewesen war gab es eine Feier. (static passive, pluperfect)

Nachdem das Kind von ihr geboren worden war gab es eine Feier. (passive, pluperfect)

Luckily, most of these forms are completely uncommon. German speakers are sloppy with their use of tenses, even in elaborated code.

For verbs which build their perfect tenses with sein, things are more complicated:

Ich bin ihm gefolgt. (perfect)

Ich war ihm gefolgt. (pluperfect)

Nachdem ich ihm gefolgt war gab es eine Überraschung. (pluperfect)

For these verbs, the Perfekt and Plusquamperfekt forms are indistiguishable from the static passive forms. Again luckily, it's mostly those verbs of movement and state change for which static passive makes no sense. For static passive expressions, there's often another similar verb which builds its perfect with haben:

Ich habe ihn verfolgt. (active, perfect)

Ich bin verfolgt. (static passive, present)


Die Eltern konnten nicht mehr schlafen, nachdem das Baby geboren * hat.

First price for that one! :-)) Because it means:

The parents couldn't sleep any more after the baby has given birth to ... um ...? :-))

Now, elementary German:

Wann bist du geboren? - Ich? Am 17. Januar 1999.

Wann hast du das erste Mal geboren? VERY odd for: Wann hast du dein erstes Kind bekommen? - Vor 3 Jahren.

In case it's not yet clear: gebären means to give birth (to), just like English to bear and to yean. Thus:

She has born two children. Quite odd for: She has given birth to two children. -> Sie hat zwei Kinder geboren.

I was born on January 17, 1999. -> Common language: Ich bin am 17. Januar 1999 geboren. Very official language: Ich wurde am 17. Januar 1999 geboren.

Might be a bit much at a single blow, but what you should learn, is: Do never ever translate words 1:1 or transfer structures 1:1. The outcome is nearly always disastrous. Except for very elementary structures like The sky is blue. - Der Himmel ist blau.

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