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Werden

Summary of the Uses of "werden"

Conjugation Tables
Related Topic: Passive (includes diagnostic and practice exercises on this topic)

Indicative

There are three possibilities if the sentence contains the verb werden in the indicative:

(a) Become

If the clause contains no other verb, werden is being used as an independent verb. In this case it means to become:

Ach, wie klein du geworden bist! My, how small you’ve become! [try this on growing kids]
Was möchtest du einmal werden? What would you like to become one day?

(b) Future

If the clause contains another verb in the infinitive, werden is being used as an auxiliary to indicate the future tense. Note that the other verb could be a modal, or a modal + infinitive (third example), or it could even be werden itself (see the second example).

Mehr und mehr Leute werden Computer kaufen. More and more people will buy computers.
Computer werden immer besser werden. Computers will become better and better.
Eines Tages werden Computer uns Deutsch beibringen können. One day, computers will be able to teach us German.


If the sentence contains haben or sein in the infinitive together with a past participle, werden is being used as an auxiliary to indicate the future perfect tense [what will have happened]. Do not confuse this with option (c) below, where werden + a past participle (but no infinitive of haben or sein) indicates the passive! We don't talk much about the future perfect tense, but here are two examples:

Wenn du ankommst, wird das gute Essen schon verschwunden sein. When you arrive, the good food will already have disappeared.
Die anderen werden schon alles gegessen haben. The others will already have eaten everything.


(c) Passive

If the clause contains a past participle, werden is being used to indicate the passive.

Das Essen ist in der Kantine gekocht worden. [perfect tense] The food was cooked in the cafeteria.
Dann wurde es von den Studenten gegessen. [narrative/simple past] Then it was eaten by the students.
Im Moment wird es verdaut. [present] At the moment it is being digested.
Morgen wird wieder etwas anderes gekocht werden. [future] Tomorrow, something else will be cooked.

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Subjunctive II

All of the above applies in the same way if werden is in the subjunctive. By itself, it then means "would become"; with a past participle it indicates the various passive tenses (now in the subjunctive). To say "would become," use würde by itself or würde werden. Würde + infinitive indicates the present subjunctive (what someone would do), and so can refer to what someone would do now or what s/he would do in the future, depending on the context. Subjunctive forms of werden combined with past participles indicate subjunctive forms of the passive voice. We don't emphasize this much in class and so there will be just one example here, but it should make sense in principle.

"Was würdest du werden, wenn Geld egal wäre?" -- "Ich würde Touristenführer." "What would you become if money didn't matter?" -- "I would become a tourist guide."
Was würdest du tun? What would you do? [now or in the future, depending on the context]
"Was würde passieren, wenn Rodney Dangerfield Präsident würde?" -- "Er würde immer noch nicht respektiert werden!" "What would happen if Rodney Dangerfield became President?" -- "He still wouldn't be respected!" [Falls [=in case] Sie Rodney Dangerfield nicht kennen: er sagt immer "Ich bekomme keinen Respekt!"]

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Conjugation Tables

 
Perfekt [Perfect Tense/Conversational Past] Präteritum [Narrative past, Simple Past, Imperfect]
Plusquamperfekt [Past Perfect] Futur [Future Tense]

Präsens [Present Tense]

ich werde wir werden
du wirst ihr werdet
er/sie/es wird sie/Sie werden

Perfekt [Perfect Tense/Conversational Past]

ich bin geworden wir sind geworden
du bist geworden ihr seid geworden
er/sie/es ist geworden sie/Sie sind geworden

When "werden" is used to form the passive voice in the perfect tense, "geworden" is shortened to "worden":

Röntgenstrahlen sind 1895 von Wilhelm Röntgen entdeckt worden. X-rays were discovered by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895.
Das Erhaltungsgesetz der Energie ist 1847 von Hermann Helmholtz offiziell formuliert worden. The principle of energy Hermann Helmholtz officiall
Das erste Auto mit einem Verbrennungsmotor [=internal combustion engine] ist 1885 von Carl Benz gebaut worden. The first car with an internal combustion engine was built by Carl Benz in 1885.

Präteritum [Narrative Past, Simple Past, Imperfect]

Remember that this tense does not differ in meaning from the perfect tense, but is used in more formal writing, whereas the perfect tense is for more informal conversation.
 
ich wurde wir wurden
du wurdest ihr wurdet
er/sie/es wurde sie/Sie wurden

Plusquamperfekt [Past Perfect]

Remember that this is the tense that is used to emphasize that a past event had happened before another past event (and so you don't need it very often). It is formed just like the Perfekt above, using the Präteritum forms of sein as an auxiliary verb instead of the present tense of sein:

ich war geworden wir waren geworden
du warst geworden ihr wart geworden
er/sie/es war geworden sie/Sie waren geworden

As with the perfect tense, when "werden" is used to form the passive voice in the past perfect tense, "geworden" is shortened to "worden":

Im Jahre 1811, lange bevor man bei ABC die Sendung "The Mole" sehen konnte, war die Idee des Mols von dem italienischen Physiker Avogadro formuliert worden. [Es gibt 6.02 x 1023 Moleküle in einem Mol von einer Substanz] In the year 1811, log before one could see the show "The Mole" on ABC, the idea of the mole had been formulated by the italian physicist Avogadro. [There are 6.02 x 1023 molecules in one mole of a substance.]

Futur

The future of any verb is formed by conjugating the verb werden in the present tense, and leaving the main verb in the infinitive. When werden is used as an independent verb to mean "to become," its meaning already implies the future, so you almost never need to use the future tense of werden, but for completeness' sake, and also because it becomes useful in the passive voice, here is how the conjugation of werden would look like in the future tense:

ich werde werden wir werden werden
du wirst werden ihr werdet werden
er/sie/es wird werden sie/Sie werden werden

In the passive voice, the above forms of werden are combined as always with the past participle of the verb to form the future tense:

Das Hubble Teleskop wird noch bis etwa 2010 benutzt werden. The Hubble telescope will still be used until roughly the year 2010.
Danach wird es zurück zur Erde gebracht werden. After that it will be brought back to Earth.
Es wird dann im Smithsonian Institute ausgestellt werden. It will then be exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute.

 

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