Language question for Native German speakers

36 posts in this topic

just curious...

 

How common is it for you to use the passive voice ?

 

The office is cleaned every week by the ABC company

 

as opposed to 

 

The ABC company cleans the office every week.

 

 

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It seems to me that the passive voice is king in German. At work where we need documents in English as we work with partners in other countries, I and other native English speakers have to fix a lot of this in basically all written work.

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I´d say it depends on what you want to stress. If you want to stress that it´s a specific company doing the cleaning I´d use the active form, if the stress is on that the office is cleaned regularly, it´s the passive one. I´m a native speaker.

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My MIL always uses the passive voice to avoid having to directly address my SIL, whom she loathes, thus avoiding the whole du/Sie situation. 

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My wife said she uses it quite a bit in official reports where confidentiality is required or where it's not required to know who carried out the actions.

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It seems to me it's used about as much as in English - i.e. a lot. My first German teacher told us that the passive voice is rarely used in English, even though "the passive voice is rarely used in English" is a passive sentence.

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4 hours ago, tor said:

just curious...

 

How common is it for you to use the passive voice ?

 

 

 

I wouldn't have a clue...(A clue wouldn't be known??) and definitely a f..ck not given...by me.

 

Sorry, @tor, you can ignore my brilliant and hilarious answer of course - just noticed that your question was for native German speakers. Nincompoop am I.

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I think it's used as much as in English.  I often hear people talk about getting their tires changed, having their hair done, etc.

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Very common. When the focus is on the action and not on who is performing it; when I don't know who is doing something... But mostly it is an unconscious decision while speaking - people rarely think about grammatical subtleties while in conversation. When writing, the passive voice it often considered "better", more formal etc. 

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There is also a super polite form of passive which is:

 

Ware es moeglich meine Haare schneiden zu lassen?

Would it be possible to let my hair be cut?

 

Again, avoiding the whole Sie/du minefield.

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The passive voice is way more prevalent in German than in English, especially in more formal registers of language!

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23 hours ago, El Jeffo said:

My MIL always uses the passive voice to avoid having to directly address my SIL, whom she loathes, thus avoiding the whole du/Sie situation. 

 

This sounds like a potential comedy goldmine - don't have any typical examples that you can share with us by any chance?

 

":::the whole du/Sie situation" reminds of the times the daughter of our former landlord used to refer to me as, for example, "Und selbst?" when we were engaged in some sort of unavoidable chitchat about God knows what. It always confused me - I'm presuming now it was her way of avoiding the whole du/Sie thing.

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On a possibly related theme, my father managed to avoid calling his MIL by her christian name.  Not sure why, but he was uncomfortable about it.  It was a family joke. 

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22 hours ago, Tap said:

I think it's used as much as in English.  I often hear people talk about getting their tires changed, having their hair done, etc.

 But is that the passive voice? I don't know what you call that; seems be an alternative to the passive voice from what I find on Google. "The office was cleaned" is diffferent from "We had the office cleaned."

 

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Perhaps you can see from your example that someone actively did something that brought about the cleaning process?   As opposed to the passive, when the same thing happened, but no mention of who brought it about?  You can perhaps appreciate why this is helpful when speaking and writing, I guess.  The cleaning example is a bit banal though. 

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19 minutes ago, snowingagain said:

Perhaps you can see from your example that someone actively did something that brought about the cleaning process?   As opposed to the passive, when the same thing happened, but no mention of who brought it about?  You can perhaps appreciate why this is helpful when speaking and writing, I guess.  The cleaning example is a bit banal though. 

Are you agreeing or disagreeing ;-)

 

Yes passive means the subject undergoes the action and "we had something done" is active. OTOH you still don't say who does the cleaning, so in that sense it's a passive construction. They probably need another case for this.

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Funnily enough, in English- " I had my car stolen yesterday " can also mean I organised it! Or I didn't and am upset!

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