By : Germanteacher -Blog, False friends, Grammar, Verbs, Vocabulary
It is widespread for German students to get confused by the four German verbs “werden”, “wurden”, “worden” and “würden” repeatedly. This article clarifies their meaning and usage.
What is the problem with “werden”, “wurden”, “worden” and “würden”
During my work as an online German teacher, I get to know and work with many different students who come from various countries worldwide. Still, almost all of them struggle when it comes to these four verbs.
In my honest opinion, the reason is that the differentiation of the pronunciation of these three words is difficult for somebody whose first language does not know Umlaute (the name for the letters ä,ö,ü). For them, the letters “u” and “ü” almost sound the same. Besides, there are also problems with the differentiation between “a“,”o” and “u“. For many, it is hard to pronounce them and, respectively, also to recognize them correctly. Most likely, this is the reason why people start to mix up “wurden”, and “würden”.
Now, after they already got confused and lack of confidence with these two verbs, the fact that there is “werden” and “worden” in German does not make it easier to decide which one to chose. In the following, you will find a more profound explanation.
The German verb “werden”
In German, the verb “werden” has three main functions:
1) “Werden” means “to become”
If you would like to express the verb “to become” in German, you will have to use the verb “werden”. Especially for people whose first language is English, this is the first trap because of the similarity to the German verb “bekommen”. However, in German, “werden” means “to become” and “bekommen” means “to get” – so mind the false friends here because otherwise, the conversation might become very funny ;).
“Werden” is an irregular verb and has the following conjugation pattern:
2) “Werden” as an auxiliary verb for the future tenses
In German grammar, we have two tenses to form a sentence in the future: “Futur 1” and “Futur 2”. While “Futur 1” describes what will happen, “Futur 2” describes the moment after something will have happened. No matter which case you would like to use, you will have to form it with “werden” as an auxiliary verb.
For instance: “Meine Eltern werden am Sonntag mit dem Auto nach Berlin fahren.” (My parents will drive to Berlin by car on Sunday.)
3) “Werden” in the passive voice
If you would like to form an active sentence like “Die Kinder essen das Gemüse.” into a passive voice, you will need to use “werden”. Accordingly, our example sentence becomes: “Das Gemüse wird (von den Kindern) gegessen.”
The German verb “wurden”
“Wurden” is the Präteritum (simple past) of the verb “werden”. This means that we use it when we would like to express that something became something or when we would like to express a passive sentence in the simple past tense in German.
For instance: “Das Gemüse wurde (von den Kindern) gegessen.”
The conjugation of “wurden” is as follows:
The German verb “worden”
“Worden” is the Partizip Perfekt of the verb “werden”. So if you would like to express the verb “werden” as an auxiliary verb in a passive sentence in present perfect (Perfekt) or past perfect (Plusquamperfekt), you will need to use “worden”.
For instance: “Das Gemüse ist (von den Kindern) gegessen worden.”
Now, you might wonder what Germans would say when they want to express “has/have become”. The answer is not too surprising as you already know that “werden” is irregular, it becomes “ist geworden”.
The German verb “würden”
In German, we use the word “würde” when we would like to say “would”. Most likely, you have already heard this verb in phrases like “Ich würde gerne bezahlen” or sentences as “Ich würde nach Italien in den Urlaub fahren, wenn ich genug Geld hätte.”
Which verb to choose?
After reading this article, it should be clear that the choice of your verb makes a massive difference in the meaning of your sentence. The problem is to realize and become aware that their pronunciation differs and that the vowels “e”, “u”, “o” and the Umlaut “ü” are not the same in German.