I saw that sentence in IX magazine, an IT magazine :

Auf das erste Subnetz kann demnach mit "module-subnetz" zugegriffen werden.

Where "module-subnetz" is the name of an IT component (The article is about a software called Terraform).

That I try to understand as:

In consequence, anything on the first subnet can be accessed with "module-subnet"

But I do not see any subject in the sentence, which could be the equivalent of the "anything" I added. Is it in general correct to say:

Auf der Strasse kann überfahren werden

Instead of :

Auf der Strasse kann man überfahren werden.

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    Note that "Auf der Straße kann [man] überfahren werden." is a different case, as "auf der Straße" is not an object of the verb (überfahren), as opposed to "auf das erste Subnetz" for "zugreifen". May 15, 2022 at 9:52
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    See also german.stackexchange.com/q/55349/35111.
    – David Vogt
    May 15, 2022 at 10:11
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    Similar question here.
    – guidot
    May 15, 2022 at 10:26
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    Not every sentence has a subject. You stumbled across one. To me, tt is not clear what your question is.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    May 16, 2022 at 9:37

2 Answers 2


You do not even need to insert “anything” in the English version. The key here is to notice that “to access sth” is “auf etwas zugreifen”.

We access the subnet.

would become the passive construction

The subnet is accessed.

The direct object became the subject.


Wir greifen auf das Subnetz zu.

does not have an accusative object, i.e. “zugreifen” is not a transitive verb. In German, this can still be turned into a passive construction, which then simply has no subject:

Auf das Subnetz wird zugegriffen.

On the other hand, this does not apply to “überfahren”, which takes an accusative object (I had to change “man” to “einer”, because “man” does not have an accusative form):

Auf der Straße können Autofahrer einen überfahren.

This accusative object then becomes the subject in the passive construction:

Auf der Straße kann man überfahren werden.

Again, it is different for verbs without an accusative object:

Auf der Straße kann getanzt werden.

  • See my comment above.
    – RDBury
    May 15, 2022 at 10:43
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    @RDBury, you start from the wrong assumption that a German sentence must have a subject. You can read the answer that I have linked for more detail.
    – Carsten S
    May 15, 2022 at 10:47
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    @RDBury, you can have even shorter examples: Jetzt wird getanzt.
    – Carsten S
    May 15, 2022 at 10:50
  • Carsten S: Okay, the linked answer was more clear on this point. Every so often my understanding of German is severely hindered by my ability to understand English.
    – RDBury
    May 15, 2022 at 10:55
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    @RDBury :) I am sure that knowing English is a net positive when learning German, though. And understanding the differences between the two languages can probably make it more entertaining to listen to Germans speaking English ;)
    – Carsten S
    May 15, 2022 at 11:01

In the school, our German teacher asked us exactly the same question about a similar sentence in passive and none of us knew the answer.

The teacher explained us that the sentence in your example is an abbreviation of:

Es kann demnach auf das erste Subnetz mit "module-subnetz" zugegriffen werden.

(Most native speakers would not use this "long" form of the sentence.)

And that the word "es" is the subject here.

She also told us that in the "abbreviated" sentence the subject is also the (implicit) word "es" although it is left out.

  • 1
    I already accepted the other answer, but this one is great and concise too. It works also well along Carsten S comment "Heute wird getantzt", wich I guess implies "Heute wird es getantzt"
    – Vulpo
    May 16, 2022 at 6:36
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    That is a poorly trained teacher. The es you introduced is not a subject. For instance, it cannot appear in subordinate clauses: *damit es auf das Subnetz zugegriffen werden kann. This type of es is called expletive. It can also co-occur with a subject: es werden Mitarbeiter gesucht.
    – David Vogt
    May 16, 2022 at 6:40
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    @Vulpo "Es wird heute getanzt." May 16, 2022 at 7:44

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