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When reading the sentence

Die Tickets waren innerhalb einer Woche ausverkauft

i.e. The tickets were sold out in a week

I realised waren is the third person plural preterite (past) conjugation of "sein" so I thought the sentence structure was active i.e. the tickets were doing the action.

I then thought, surely the tickets would receive the action of being sold out since they didn't sell themselves (someone else acted upon them - purchased them) and hence I thought:

Why isn't the sentence above written in a passive tense?

i.e. why don't we use the verb werden with the "ausverkaufen"?

so for example

Die Tickets werden innerhalb einer Woche ausverkauft

  • Your example translates to 'the tickets will be sold out within a week'. Both your sentences are passive, as you only change the tense, so it seems to me as if the premise of your question is wrong. What do you really mean to ask? – jarnbjo Jan 31 at 17:28
  • But I thought passive needs the conjugate of the verb "werden" which isn't in the sentence I first showed - so is the sentence with "waren" passive or not? – David Smith Jan 31 at 18:01
  • As I already wrote: Both your sentences are passive. – jarnbjo Jan 31 at 18:23
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German has two passive voices.

Die Tickets werden innerhalb einer Woche ausverkauft. (Vorgangspassiv, Präsens)

Die Tickets wurden innerhalb einer Woche ausverkauft. (Vorgangspassiv, Präteritum)

Die Tickets sind innerhalb einer Woche ausverkauft. (Zustandspassiv, Präsens)

Die Tickets waren innerhalb einer Woche ausverkauft. (Zustandspassiv, Präteritum)

You already know the Vorgangspassiv. That's the passive voice you know from English. It uses werden as its auxiliary.

The other passive voice is Zustandspassiv and uses sein as its auxiliary.

The meaning of this Zustandspassiv is similar to the English perfect tense, just that it's passive. Some action has been completed and what is described is the result.

It's a strange mix of the perfect aspect of tense and passive voice. (You should already know the German Perfekt is just the simple past in speech.) What adds another complication is some German verbs build their Perfekt with sein. For most of these, only Perfekt aktiv makes sense.

Er ist gegangen.

Gehen is by no means a result of something.

However, for a very small group of these verbs, Perfekt aktiv and Zustandspassiv are indistinguishable.

Sie ist gefallen.

Here, both interpretations make sense.

  • Precisely my point - throughout my course and in writing I have learned the need for "werden" as the passive, and now I find another form which hasn't been mentioned. How annoying! many thanks nonetheless. – David Smith Jan 31 at 18:08
  • You may see it as the vestiges of the perfect aspect of tenses which was lost for anything else but the passive. – Janka Jan 31 at 18:12
  • That's absolutely fine but like I said it's irritating if I find such a vestiged example in the book and I spend an hour looking around for an answer that doesn't exist. Again, it was a great help, your answer. – David Smith Jan 31 at 18:16

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