Abstract : The modeling of tsunami generation is an essential phase in understanding tsunamis. For tsunamis generated by underwater earthquakes, it involves the modeling of the sea bottom motion as well as the resulting motion of the water above it. A comparison between various models for three-dimensional water motion, ranging from linear theory to fully nonlinear theory, is performed. It is found that for most events the linear theory is sufficient. However, in some cases, more sophisticated theories are needed. Moreover, it is shown that the passive approach in which the seafloor deformation is simply translated to the ocean surface is not always equivalent to the active approach in which the bottom motion is taken into account, even if the deformation is supposed to be instantaneous.