Spanisch-Lektionen

Themen

The Passive Voice in Spanish

Let's talk about the passive voice in Spanish!

 

What is "Voice"?

Let's start by understanding the concept of voz (voice) in a sentence- in English or Spanish. This refers to the relationship between a sentence's subject and verb. A sentence's voice can be active or passive. But what's the difference?

banner PLACEHOLDER

The Active Voice

In the active voice, the subject performs a verb's action onto an object and is thus considered the sentence's actor or agent (the person or thing that carries out the action). Let's see some examples:

 

Pedro come galletas. 

"Pedro come galletas" [Pedro eats cookies].

Caption 21, Carlos explica La concordancia gramatical - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

In this caption, Pedro is the subject/agent who executes the action of "eating" the object (the cookies).

 

eh... pintábamos muchísimos fondos oscuros

um... we painted a ton of dark backgrounds

Caption 99, María Marí Su pasión por su arte - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

In this example, "we" is the subject/agent who carried out the action of "painting" the object, "a ton of dark backgrounds."

 

Gabriel García Márquez escribió muchos libros.

Gabriel García Márquez wrote a lot of books.

Caption 50, Carlos explica El pretérito Cap. 1: Perfecto simple o Indefinido

 Play Caption

 

And finally, here, Gabriel García Márquez is the subject, and agent, who performed the action of "writing" the object (a lot of books).  

 

The Passive Voice

In the passive voice, on the other hand, what was previously the object in the active voice actually becomes the subject, but, this time, receives the action of the verb. At the same time, the previous subject becomes a "passive agent" who may or may not be mentioned at the end of the sentence. That said, before finding out how to convey sentences in the passive voice in Spanish, let's convert our previous English examples of the active voice to the passive voice:

 

Active: Pedro eats cookies

Passive: Cookies are eaten by Pedro

 

um... we painted a ton of dark backgrounds

um... a ton of dark backgrounds were painted by us

 

Active: Gabriel García Márquez wrote a lot of books.

Passive: A lot of books were written by Gabriel García Márquez.

 

banner3 PLACEHOLDER

Two Formulas

Now that we have a better concept of the passive voice, how do we express it in Spanish? Let's learn two different formulas for doing so. 

 

1. Ser + past participle + (por + agent)

In this first formula, the verb ser (to be) is conjugated in accordance with the subject of the sentence and followed by a past participle (you may wish to consult this lesson that covers conjugating the past participle). In this construction, the participle (the equivalent of English words like "spoken," "eaten," "gone," etc.) must agree with the subject in terms of number and gender. Subsequently, por plus an agent may be optionally added to explain who or what completed the action. Let's take a look at some examples of this formula in Spanish:

 

y es escrito por mí personalmente.

and is personally written by me.

Caption 46, Los Tiempos de Pablo Escobar Capítulo 1 - Part 7

 Play Caption
 
Since the speaker is referring to a singular, masculine object (un libro/a book), the verb ser is conjugated in its third person singular form, and the participle, escrito, is masculine and singular. Let's see another example:
 

En el Siglo dieciocho, las costas de San José en Almería eran asaltadas frecuentemente por piratas 

In the eighteenth century, the coasts of San José in Almería were assaulted frequently by pirates

Captions 32-33, Club de las ideas Batería de breves - Part 1

 Play Caption
 
Here, what "were assaulted" were the plural, feminine "las costas," so the plural conjugation of ser is followed by the feminine/plural participle asaltadas. Let's see one more:
 

Las tarjetas fueron usadas

The cards were used

Caption 32, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 12

 Play Caption

 

Note that in accordance with las tarjetas, the third person plural of serfueron, is used along with the feminine plural participle usadas. However, in contrast to the other two examples where por is used to identify the person or people who carried out the action, here, the agent is unknown and thus unmentioned. Let's move on to our second formula.

 

2. Se + verb in third person

This construction is formed with se and a verb in third person singular or plural, depending upon whether what is being spoken about (the subject) is singular or plural. Let's see a few examples:

 

Este vino se hace con una de las uvas más populares 

This wine is made with one of the most popular grapes

Caption 21, Amaya Cata de vinos

 Play Caption
 

las corridas se celebraban en la Plaza Mayor.

bullfights were held in the Plaza Mayor.

Caption 5, El Trip Madrid

 Play Caption
 

"Garr", no entiendo para qué se hicieron esos uniformes.

Garr, I don't understand why those uniforms were made.

Caption 53, Club 10 Capítulo 1 - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

In the first caption, the verb hacer is conjugated in the third person singular to agree with el vino, while celebrar and hacer in the second and third examples are plural in agreement with las corridas and los uniformes. Notice that there is no mention of the entity who performed the action in any of these sentences since this second formula rarely mentions the action's agent. 

 

When Is the Passive Voice Used?

The passive voice is more commonly encountered in the media or literature or when the agent that carried out the action is unknown or considered less relevant. It can only be used with transitive verbs, or verbs that are capable of transmitting some action onto a direct object. In terms of tenses, you may have noticed that our examples have included the presentimperfect, and preterite. While the passive voice formulas contain particular grammatical specifications, there is no mention of any of the specific Spanish verb tenses because active Spanish sentences in any verb tense can be converted to the passive voice. With this in mind, let's conclude this lesson with a present perfect tense example of the verb descubrir (to discover) in the active as well as both formats of the passive voice:

 

Active:

 

Científicos han descubierto que cuando un abrazo dura más de veinte segundos se produce un efecto terapéutico

Scientists have discovered that when a hug lasts more than twenty seconds, a therapeutic effect is produced

Captions 5-7, Aprendiendo con Silvia El abrazo

 Play Caption

 

Passive 1:

 

Ya que ellos, pues, han sido descubiertos en Inglaterra

Since they, well, have been discovered in England

Caption 40, Hugo Rodríguez Duendes artesanales

 Play Caption

 

Passive 2:

 

porque se han descubierto muchas virtudes

because many virtues have been discovered

Caption 9, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

That's all for today. For more information on the passive voice in Spanish, check out this four-part video series on La voz pasiva as well as this lesson on the passive vs. impersonal se constructions. And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.

banner4 PLACEHOLDER

 

Melde dich an um GRATIS-Spanisch-Lektionen per E-Mail zu erhalten



Untertitel 5
Mittel bis fortgeschritten
Untertitel 41
Mittel bis fortgeschritten
Untertitel 21
Mittel bis fortgeschritten

Dies könnte dir auch gefallen: