Inti qieghed hawn: Grammar > Verbs > The passive voice

The passive voice
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In English we use the verbs to be or to become for the passive.

active passive
I wash your hair your hair is washed (by me)
he has cleaned the house the house has been cleaned (by him)
the music excites me I am excited (by the music)

After the passive, we can always put the construction by + agent.

The passive is not a tense. A tense indicates the point in time an event occurred. The passive voice can take all tenses, e.g. the passive simple, passive perfect, passive pluperfect, etc.

Formation of the passive in Dutch

In Dutch, we use the same verbs:

passive voice: 'zijn' and 'worden'

Zijn? (to be) and worden? (to become) are irregular verbs. Sometimes we use the regular verb raken instead of worden.

Just like in English, we use the past participle? to form the passive.

There is, however, one important difference. Just compare the English and Dutch phrases below.

English Auxiliary verb Dutch Auxiliary verb
My hair is washed to be Mijn haar wordt gewassen worden
My hair was washed to be Mijn haar werd gewassen worden
My hair has been washed to be Mijn haar is gewassen zijn
My hair had been washed to be Mijn haar was gewassen zijn

In English, we use the same verb for both the simple and the perfect tenses. In the examples above, we used 'to be'. In Dutch, on the other hand, we use different verbs.

Worden and zijn

Worden is used if the event is still going on at this particular moment. In English we would use the simple tense of to be, to become or, sometimes, to get.

Zijn is used when we want to express that an event has already occurred or been done (perfect tense). In English, we would use the perfect tense of 'to be'.


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L-ahhar aggornament May 03, 2007 ::