When you learn German, you quickly come across the German verb werden, which has many different meanings and uses. As an intermediate speaker, you might not be sure how to learn the different usages.
Determining the meaning of werden often requires looking for contextual clues in sentences that can tell you which form is appropriate.
Besides being an irregular auxiliary verb, werden can also be a helping verb, indicate the passive voice, and indicate degrees of certainty.
You can also use werden to talk about the future, express if/then conditions, and give commands.
First, let's look at the various ways to conjugate the word werden. Then, I'll take you through an explanation of each usage variation.
By the end of this post, you'll be using werden like a pro!
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Werden Conjugation: How To Conjugate The Verb Werden
You'll find all of the various ways to conjugate werden in the Simple Present, Simple Past, Present Perfect, and Subjunctive forms summarized in the reference table below.
|Pronoun||Werden Simple Present||Werden Simple Past||Werden Present Perfect||Werden Subjunctive|
|ich (I)||werde||wurde||bin geworden or bin, verb, worden||würde|
|du (you)||wirst||wurdest||bist geworden or bist, verb, worden||würdest|
|er/sie/es (he/she/it)||wird||wurde||ist geworden or ist, verb, worden||würde|
|ihr (you plural)||werdet||wurdet||seid geworden or seid, verb, worden||würdet|
|wir (we)||werden||wurden||sind geworden or sind, verb, worden||würden|
|Sie (you formal)||werden||wurden||sind geworden or sind, verb, worden||würden|
Next, let's dive into the different uses for the word werden in German. As we go along, I'll go through each option and its specific meanings.
7 Different Ways To Use Werden In German
Altogether, I'll show you seven unique uses for werden in German. You'll find plenty of examples to help you get the hang of how to use each form.
By the end, you'll know how to distinguish each usage and have a clearer understanding of this common but confusing German verb.
1. When Werden Means “To Become”
One of the most common uses for werden means “to become” or “get” as in, “to turn into something” or “change from one state to another.”
|Pronoun||Werden (Simple Present)|
|ihr (you plural)||werdet|
|Sie (you formal)||werden|
- Example: Das Essen wird kalt. (The food is getting cold.)
- Example: Es wird endlich Sommer. (It's finally becoming summer.)
- Example: Wir werden ungeduldig. (We're becoming “getting” impatient.)
You may be familiar with the German verb bekommen, which sounds like the English “become” but has an entirely different meaning.
Remember that werden means “get” as in “to become something,” while bekommen means “get” as in “to receive something.”
- Example: Ich bekomme gute Noten. (I receive good grades, or I get good grades.)
- Example: Ich werde die beste Studentin. (I'm becoming the best student, or I'm turning into the best student.)
When you talk about a process or transition, choose the verb werden. You can also use werden as an auxiliary verb in the past tenses.
- Example: Das Essen wurde kalt. (The food became cold.)
- Example: Das Essen ist kalt geworden. (The food has become cold.)
Both past tense options essentially have the same meaning.
2. Using Werden To Talk About The Future
Another common way to use the verb werden in German is to talk about the future. Using werden together with the infinitive of another verb, you can say what “is going to” happen.
This form comes in handy when you want to tell others about your upcoming plans.
- Example: Im July wird er Urlaub machen. (He will go on vacation in July.)
- Example: Wir wissen nicht ob sie kommen werden. (We don't know if they will come.)
In both German and English, it's common to imply the future without using werden.
- Example: Im July macht er Urlaub. (He's going on vacation in July.)
- Example: Wir wissen nicht ob sie kommen. (We don't know if they're coming.)
In English, we use the “ing” or gerund form of the verb and drop “will.” Similarly, in German, you can drop werden and conjugate the remaining verbs as usual.
3. Passive Voice Using Werden
In English, you would typically consider using the passive voice as improper, but you'll see it more frequently in German. Written German and academic texts often contain the passive voice and prefer this form over the active voice.
Use a conjugated form of werden with the present perfect form of the main verb to form the German passive.
- Example: Mein Auto wird abgeschleppt. (My car is being towed.)
- Example: Die Gäste werden begrüßt. (The guests are being greeted.)
- Example: Du wirst angeleitet. (You are being guided.)
You can also form the passive using the simple past tense of the word werden.
|Pronoun||Werden (Simple Past)|
|ihr (you plural)||wurdet|
|Sie (you formal)||wurden|
You'll see the difference in the rewritten examples from above.
- Example: Mein Auto wurde abgeschleppt. (My car was towed.)
- Example: Die Gäste wurden begrüßt. (The guests were greeted.)
- Example: Du wurdest angeleitet. (You were guided.)
Use the present perfect tense in a similar way.
|Pronoun||Werden (Present Perfect)|
|ich (I)||bin (verb) worden|
|du (you)||bist (verb) worden|
|er/sie/es (he/she/it)||ist (verb) worden|
|ihr (you plural)||seid (verb) worden|
|wir (we)||sind (verb) worden|
|Sie (you formal)||sind (verb) worden|
- Example: Mein Auto ist abgeschleppt worden. (My car has been towed.)
- Example: Die Gäste sind begrüßt worden. (The guests have been greeted.)
- Example: Du bist angeleitet worden. (You have been guided.)
Both past forms of the passive are very similar, so you can use either one you prefer.
4. The Subjunctive Form Of Werden
Conditional or hypothetical sentence structures also use a form of werden. This form of the verb allows you to express your wishes, what you would like, or what you would do in an if/then circumstance.
|ihr (you plural)||würdet|
|Sie (you formal)||würden|
You can use this form of werden to give opinions, judgments, possibilities, and potential outcomes.
- Example: Ich würde gerne Urlaub machen. (I would like to go on vacation.)
- Example: Du würdest niemals Fallschirmspringen gehen. (You would never go sky diving.)
- Example: Wir würden lieber essen. (We would rather eat.)
Typically, you'll use this form the most in spoken and colloquial German. In written German, it's more common to use the subjunctive form of the main verb without würden.
5. Werden For Expressing Certainty
You can use werden to emphasize the certainty of something you're expressing. Seeing one of the signal words below is a clue that the form of werden in the sentence is for emphasis.
- auf jeden Fall (of course)
- bestimmt (certainly)
- garantiert (guaranteed)
- gewiss (surely)
- mit Sicherheit (with certainty)
- sicher (surely)
If you see or hear words of certainty, then werden is likely there for emphasis and not as a future expression.
- Example: Du wirst sicher Hunger haben. (Surely, you're hungry.)
- Example: Das wird garantiert schwer. (That's guaranteed to be difficult.)
Adding werden to your sentences is one way to express degrees of certainty or uncertainty in German.
6. Probability And Werden
Using werden in a sentence construction, you can also express a situation that is probable or likely. Although this might sound confusing, these sentences aren't as tricky to spot as you might think.
- Example: Er wird noch im Bett liegen. (He's probably still laying in bed.)
- Example: Sie wird wohl am kochen sein. (Surely she's cooking.)
When you see noch, wohl, doch, schon, or similar words, you're likely dealing with a probability statement. Although these sentences look identical to the future form of werden, you'll interpret the meaning differently.
If a phrase makes more sense when you insert a word meaning “sure,” “likely,” or “probably,” then it's a probability statement and not the future tense.
7. Commands Using Werden
The final way you might come across the German werden is in commands. Together with an infinitive verb, you can use werden to emphasize your demands.
- Example: Du wirst sofort aufhören! (Stop this instant!)
- Example: Du wirst jetzt gehen! (Leave immediately!)
- Example: Du wirst ganz nah zuhören! (Listen carefully!)
Using werden sounds stricter than the imperative form, which may be too short to get the attention of others.
Now you know four primary uses for the verb werden and three secondary uses for the verb in German. The first and most common usage for werden is as an auxiliary verb, meaning “to become.” You can use this form of werden in the present and past tenses.
Secondly, you'll encounter werden as a way to express sentences in the future tense. Werden also appears frequently in the passive voice, which you'll often use in German. Forms of werden with “ü” (würden) indicate conditional if/then statements.
Finally, werden also has three secondary uses to express certainty, probability, and give commands. You'll recognize these forms from context and signal words accompanying werden.
I hope you had fun learning the different uses for the verb werden and better understand how to use it. Now it's time to go out there and listen to German podcasts, watch German movies and read German books and spot the different uses of werden in context.