This is the first study devoted to what is known as the subjectless or impersonal passive. The first half of the study examines the function and origin of the impersonal passive from a supra-language perspective. The second half, based on an empirical evaluation of Old, Middle and Early New High German texts from approx. 800 to approx. 1500, demonstrates the different stages involved in the development of the various manifestations of the personal and impersonal passive.