The Difference Between Werden, Wurden, Würden, Worden, and Geworden

The German verbs “werden,” “wurden,” “würden,” “worden,” and “geworden” are notorious for causing the biggest headaches among German learners. Let’s face it: they are spelled almost the same, differing by just one or a few letters. How on earth can you tell them apart?

Don’t worry, we’re here to clear up the confusion! In this guide, we’ll break down all the tenses, moods, and variations of the verb “werden.” We’ll walk you through numerous examples to show you how each form is used in the German language. Get ready to master “werden” once and for all!

The 4 Functions of Werden

The German verb “werden” can be used in four different ways.

  1. The main verb “werden” means “to become”. We are talking about a change or transformation here.
  2. “Werden” is used as an auxiliary verb in the German future tenses.
  3. “Werden” is used as an auxiliary verb in the German passive voice.
  4. “Würden” is the Konjunktiv 2 version of “werden”. Konjunktiv 2 is used to express wishes, ask polite questions, or talk about hypothetical scenarios, similar to how you use “would” or “could” in English.

“Werden” as the Main Verb

“Werden” can be used as a main verb and its English translation is “to become”. However, be cautious because “to become” does NOT correspond to the German verb “bekommen”. “Bekommen” means “to get” or “to receive”, making it a false friend. 😉

Here are some examples of “werden” used as a main verb.

Jenny wird rot. → Literally: Jenny becomes red. It actually means Jenny is blushing. Her face is turning red.

This sentence uses the present tense (Präsens) because it describes something happening right now.

Jenny wurde rot. → Jenny blushed.

In this example, “werden” is used in the simple past (Präteritum), indicating that the action happened in the past. Präteritum is primarily used in written German, such as in newspapers, literature, and story-stelling.

Jenny ist rot geworden. → Jenny blushed.

In this example, “werden” is used in the present perfect (Perfekt) which is predominantly used in spoken German to describe actions that have been completed in the past. You will hear it being used in daily conversations all the time.

Werden in the Present (Präsens)

Now that we have seen examples of “werden” being used in the present, simple past, and present perfect tense, let’s learn how to conjugate it in these three tenses. Make sure to memorize these conjugations since “werden” is an irregular verb. Let’s start with the present tense.

werden in the Present Tense (Präsens)
sie, Siewerden

Now, let’s explore several other examples of “werden” in the present tense:

Sie wird Anwältin → She is becoming a lawyer.

Wenn ich jeden Abend Chips esse, werde ich dick. → If I eat chips every night, I will become fat.

Wenn du viel Spinat isst, wirst du groß und stark.

Werden in the Simple Past (Präteritum)

Now that we have a pretty good idea of how to use “werden” in the present tense, let’s take a look at the conjugation table of “werden” in the simple past tense.

werden in the simple past (Präteritum)
sie, Siewurden

Here are some examples:

Sie wurde Chirurgin und verdiente viel Geld. → She became a surgeon and earned a lot of money.

Sie wurden beste Freundinnen. → They became best [female] friends.

Es wurde dunkel. → It became dark.

Werden in the Present Perfect (Perfekt)

Let’s move on to the forms of “werden” in the present perfect tense:

werden in the present perfect tense (Perfekt)
ichbin geworden
dubist geworden
er/sie/esist geworden
wirsind geworden
ihrseid geworden
sie, Siesind geworden

It’s important to note that you need to use the verb “sein” as an auxiliary verb when using “werden” in the present perfect tense.

In order to do this, you use the conjugated form of the verb “sein” in the present tense and add the past participle (Partizip 2) of the main verb, which in this case is “werden”. “Geworden” is the past participle of “werden” and it never changes, regardless of the person you are talking about.

Let’s see how “geworden” is used in a sentence:

Bin ich dick geworden? → Have I become fat?

Er trainiert seit ein paar Monaten und ist stark geworden. → He has been training for a few months and he has become strong.

Du bist groß geworden. → You have become tall.

Werden with Modal Verbs

“Werden” can also be used in combination with modal verbs such as können, wollen, sollen, and dürfen. In this case, you have to conjugate the modal verb and use “werden” in the infinitive form.

Let’s delve into a few examples:

Ich will nicht rot werden! → I don’t want to blush!

Sie möchte selbstbewusster werden. → She would like to become more self-confident.

Er will Fluglotse werden. → He wants to become an air traffic controller.

Ich soll geduldiger werden. → I am supposed to become more patient.

Wir können großzügiger werden. → We can become more generous.

Werden in the Future (Futur 1)

In order to talk about the future in German, you can use Futur 1. Forming this tense is relatively straightforward; you’ll just need to conjugate “werden” in the present tense, as we learned earlier, and then use the infinitive form of the main verb.

Let’s explore a few examples:

Ich werde ihn morgen anrufen. → I will call him tomorrow.

Nächstes Jahr werden wir nach Australien fliegen. → Next year, we will fly to Australia.

lingoni wird hoffentlich bald lingoni SPANISH launchen. → lingoni will hopefully launch lingoni SPANISH soon.

Wirst du ein Auslandssemester machen? → Are you going to study abroad for a semester?

Werden in the Future Perfect (Futur 2)

The German tense Futur 2 can be used in two main ways:

  • To express actions that will have been completed in the future
  • To speculate about past events from a future perspective

In order to form this tense, you need to use the present tense conjugation of “werden”, a past participle and either sein or haben. (“Haben” is used for the majority of verbs, while “sein” is used for verbs of movement and a few other exceptions.)

Let’s explore a few examples:

Sie werden bis 15 Uhr angekommen sein. → They will have arrived by 3pm. (refers to an action in the future)

Mario wird sein Fahrrad bis morgen repariert haben. → Mario will have repaired his bike by tomorrow. (refers to an action in the future)

Sie werden das Nashorn gesehen haben. → They will have seen the rhinoceros. (refers to an action in the past)

Die Kinder werden schon ins Bett gegangen sein. → The children will have already gone to bed. (refers to an action in the past)

The following video delves deeper into the usage of Futur 2 in German and equips you with lots of useful examples:

Werden in the Present Passive (Passiv Präsens)

The Passiv Präsens is used to describe actions that are happening in the present moment. The subject of the sentence is not performing the action but rather receiving it. It is not necessarily important who performs the action or who is responsible for it.

The Passiv Präsens requires a conjugated form of “werden” in the present tense and the past participle.

This is how it works in real-life examples:

Das Haus wird gebaut. → The house is being built.

We don’t know who is building the house, we just know that it is being built. It’s not relevant who built it.

Die Kinder werden zur Schule gebracht. → The kids are being taken to school.

The relevant information is that the kids are being taken to school. They could be taking the bus or getting a ride from someone. In any case, the important point is that they are somehow getting to school.

Warum werde ich immer kritisiert? → Why am I always being criticized?

Werden in the Simple Past Passive (Passiv Präteritum)

You can also use the passive voice in the past. One way to do this is by using the Passiv Präteritum which is often found in writing. In order to form it, you just need to conjugate “werden” in the Präteritum and use the past participle (Partizip 2) of the main verb.

This is how it works:

Das Haus wurde gebaut. → The house was built.

Die Einbrecher wurden gesehen. → The burglars were seen.

Ich wurde kritisiert. – I was criticized.

Werden in the Passive Perfect (Passiv Perfekt)

The passive perfect is widely used in spoken language. It is made up of the conjugated form of “sein” in the present tense, the past participle, and the word “worden”.

These examples should help you understand its practical use:

Der Hund ist gefüttert worden. → The dog has been fed/was fed.

Ich bin bezahlt worden. → I have been paid/was paid.

Das Auto ist repariert worden. → The car has been repaired/was repaired.

Sind die Klamotten gewaschen worden? → Have the clothes been washed/Were the clothes washed?

Werden in the Past Perfect Passive (Passiv Plusquamperfekt)

Passiv Plusquamperfekt lets you talk about an action that occurred even further back in the past. While talking about the past, you mention something that happened even earlier than that past event. Here are a few examples illustrating this:

Wir sind 2005 in das Haus gezogen. Es war fünf Jahre zuvor gebaut worden. → We moved into the house in 2005. The house had been built five years prior to that.

Als wir ankamen, war die Ferienwohnung schon gereinigt worden. → When we arrived, the vacation rental had already been cleaned.

Werden in the Passive Future 1

You can also use the passive voice for future events.

Das Haus wird gebaut werden. → The house will be built.

Das alte Auto wird verkauft werden. → The old car will be sold.

Uns wird hoffentlich geholfen werden. → We will hopefully be helped.

Werden in the Passive Future 2

We can use passive constructions for actions that will have been completed by a specific point in the future or to speculate about an event that may have been completed in the past.

To form Futur 2 as a passive construction, you need to conjugate “werden” in the present tense and add the past participle, the word “worden” and sein in the infinitive form.

Die Kinder werden bis 21 Uhr ins Bett gebracht worden sein. → The kids will have been brought to bed by 9pm. (We are making an assumption about the future.)

Das Haus wird gebaut worden sein. → The house will have been built. (We are assuming that the house has been built.)

The following video provides an in-depth explanation of the various uses of “werden”, covering its roles as a main verb, in the future tenses, in passive constructions, and in the subjunctive.

Werden in the Present Subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2 in der Gegenwart)

To express your dreams, wishes, and polite questions in German, you’ll want to use the subjunctive 2 in the present tense.

To form it, simply conjugate “werden” in the Present Subjunctive 2, followed by an infinitive verb. Here’s how “würden” is formed for each person:

werden in the Present Subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2 Gegenwart)
sie, Siewürden

This is how it’s used in specific examples:

Ich würde dir gerne mein Büro zeigen. → I would like to show you my office.

Wir würden euch gerne zu uns nach Hause einladen. → We would like to invite you guys to our house.

Würde er mir helfen? → Would he help me?

Würdest du mich begleiten? → Would you accompany me?

Werden in the Past Subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2 in der Vergangenheit)

To talk about hypothetical situations that will never become true, you’ll need to know how to use the subjunctive forms in the past. To do this, you need to use “sein” in the Present Subjunctive 2 form and add the past participle “geworden”.

Sie wäre Pilotin geworden, wenn sie genug Geld gespart hätte. → She would have become a pilot if she had saved enough money.

Ich wäre nicht rot geworden, wenn er mich nicht blamiert hätte. → I wouldn’t have blushed if he hadn’t embarrassed me.

Die Lebensmittel wären schlecht geworden, wenn du sie nicht in den Kühlschrank gestellt hättest. → The food would have gone bad if you hadn’t put it into the refrigerator.

If you would like a comprehensive review of the rules concerning the German verb “werden” and to get a firm grasp on the pronunciation of these verbs, be sure to check out Jenny’s YouTube video on the verbs werden, wurden, würden, worden, and geworden:

Werden in the Subjunctive 2 Passive Voice (Konjunktiv 2 im Passiv)

The German verb “werden” also plays a role for the subjunctive 2 in the passive voice. Here’s a quick overview of the subjunctive forms in the active and passive voice.

Present Tense

Active voice: Wir würden die Wohnung renovieren.

Passive voice: Die Wohnung würde renoviert.

Past Tense

Active voice: Die Chirurgin hätte den Patienten operiert.

Passive voice: Der Patient wäre operiert worden.

Future Tense

Active voice: Tanja würde ihrem Bruder helfen.

Passive voice: Ihrem Bruder würde geholfen werden.

Points to Remember

  1. The German verb “werden” can be used in four ways: as a main verb, as an auxiliary verb in future tenses and passive constructions, and in the subjunctive II.
  2. As “werden” is an irregular verb, it’s essential to memorize the conjugations listed in this article to form sentences accurately.
  3. Consistent practice is key to understanding how to use “werden” and all of its variations, tenses, and moods correctly. For additional practice, consider exploring the lingoni app.

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