Impersonal Passive

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What is Impersonal Passive? (Unpersönliche Passiv)

Impersonal passive is a special form of the passive where there is no accusative object. In passive, the accusative object normally becomes the subject, but here it doesn't exist.

If a verb doesn't have an accusative object, we have to do a small trick to construct the passive voice: we add the word „es“ as a placeholder for the accusative object or use an adverbial phrase („Wann“, „Wie“, „Wo“ or „warum“ something happened). A few notes:

  • The placeholder („es“ / adverbial phrase) must go in position 1.
  • Any dative object remains a dative object in the passive voice. Only an accusative object can become the subject in a passive sentence.
  • If „es“ is included, it must go in position 1. If you put the dative / prepositional complement in position 1, then leave „es“ out.

Impersonal Passive with Dative Complements


Unpersönliches Passiv impersonal passive DATIVE complements

„Werden“ is conjugated in the third person singular.

Impersonal Passive with Prepositional Complements


Unpersönliches Passiv impersonal passive ACCUSATIVE complements

„Werden“ is conjugated in the third person singular.

The Pronoun "man"

The impersonal pronoun „man“ doesn't exist in passive voice. It is left out or replaced by „es“.

unpersönliches Passive impersonal passive man

"Es" in Normal Passive Voice

The impersonal pronoun „es“ can be used in all passive sentences. It is used when the actor can't or shouldn‘t be named.


  • „Die Polizei hat den Täter gefasst.“


  • „Der Täter (von der Polizei) wurde gefasst.“
  • Es wurde der Täter (von der Polizei) gefasst.“

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  • The Impersonal Pronoun „es“ is used in Passive if there is no Accusative object.
  • But it is not obligatory! We can leave it out, but the conjugation of the verb „werden“ is always based on „es“ - third person singular.
  • If we leave „es“ out, there is no subject in the sentence (and here that's ok!).

Your Native Language

  • How do you form the Impersonal Passive in your language?

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Entire lesson in German only: Das unpersönliche Passiv

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