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I am still trying to understand when to use "waren" and when to use "wurden". I find that usually I mistakenly use "waren" when I am trying to use the passive. In the following sentence it is clear that the first instance of "wurden" is correct because we don't know who or what upset our expectations. But in the second instance we know that the advertisement awoke the expectations, so shouldn't "waren" be used here?

Leider wurden unsere Erwartungen, die durch ihre Werbung erweckt wurden, nicht erfüllt.

3 Answers 3

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As others have already written, yes, this sentence is passive (both in the main and the relative clause) and grammatically OK. What's maybe a bit off is that the sequence of tenses isn't quite right (even if German is by far not as picky as English in that respect, but here it really sticks out):

The raising of expectations has definitely happened before they were not met. So, the sentence should probably be

Leider wurden unsere Erwartungen, die durch ihre Werbung erweckt worden sind, nicht erfüllt.

(Relative clause uses perfect instead of past)

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    Or rather worden waren to point out it happened before?
    – DonHolgo
    Apr 28, 2022 at 10:21
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    I agree with @DonHolgo. Why should "erweckt worden sind" (Perfekt) be an earlier point in time than "erweckt wurden" (Präteritum)?
    – HalvarF
    Apr 28, 2022 at 10:37
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No, the sentence is fine as stated.

Advertisements of company X (subject) created expectations (object).

In the subordinate clause of your example, expectations is the object, but no subject is present, so passive voice is required.

Note, that waren just indicates the past, while wurden has many purposes, but among others indicates past in passive voice.

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Maybe this can help :

Main clause without relative clause (and without "leider" and without negation):

  • Perfekt

    • Vorgangspassiv

      Unsere Erwartungen wurden erfüllt.

    • Zustandspassiv:

      Unsere Erwartungen waren erfüllt.

    • Aktiv:

      Jemand hat unsere Erwartungen erfüllt.

  • Präsens

    • Vorgangspassiv

      Unsere Erwartungen werden erfüllt.

    • Zustandspassiv:

      Unsere Erwartungen sind erfüllt.

    • Aktiv:

      Jemand erfüllt unsere Erwartungen.

Realtive clause (also simplified)

  • Perfekt

    • Vorgangspassiv

      ... Erwartungen, die erweckt wurden, ...

    • Zustandspassiv

      ... Erwartungen, die erweckt waren, ...

    • Aktiv

      ... Erwartungen, die jemand erweckt hat, ...

  • Präsens

    • Vorgangspassiv

      ... Erwartungen, die erweckt werden, ...

    • Zustandspassiv

      ... Erwartungen, die erweckt sind, ...

    • Aktiv

      ... Erwartungen, die jemand erweckt, ...


Your sentence is a combination of twice Perfekt + Vorgangspassiv. But you can mix in any combination. Here is an example:

Unsere Erwartungen, die jemand erweckt, waren erfüllt.

This is Perfekt + Zustandspassiv in the main clause and Präsens + Aktiv in the relative clause. This is grammatically correct. If it makes sense depends on the context.

And so also this is possible:

Unsere Erwartungen, die erweckt waren, wurden erfüllt.
Leider wurden unsere Erwartungen, die durch ihrer Werbung erweckt waren, nicht erfüllt.

This is:

  • In the main clause: Perfekt + Vorgangspassiv
  • In the relative clause: Perfekt + Zustandspassiv

In past tenses (like Perfekt) there is often no semantic difference between Vorstandspassiv and Zustandspassiv. Zustandspassiv in Perfekt means, that at some point in time in the past there was a certain state. Vorgangsaktiv describes a transition into a state. But Perfekt means: The transition that was in the past is now over. So, in both cases, the result in the present is a state.

So, the main clause says: There was a transition in the past that is now over. (Our expectations are not fulfilled now because the process of fulfillment did not happen in the past.)

The relative clause in the Vorgangspassiv version says: There was a transition in the past that is now over and lead to another state now.(Now we have expectations because in the past there was a process that performed a raise of our expectations which has come to an end until now.)

The relative clause in the Zustandspassiv version says: There was a state in the past that lead to another state now. (Now we have expectations because in the past there was a state of aroused expectations. And because our expectations were aroused in the past we still have them now.)

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  • Unsere Erwartungen wurden erfüllt. is Präteritum, not Perfekt.
    – RHa
    Apr 28, 2022 at 19:47

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