I'm extremely confused about sentences like this where the noun follows the verb. Some translations show it's the noun doing the action ("the dress has been sent"). Others assume some unknown person or thing (he/she/it) is performing the action. What is the rule here? How can the reader tell the difference of who is performing the action?
Hi Shortsy. Yes, you have this a little mixed up, but it's a confusing subject. Duo's sentence: "He/she has sent the dress" is in the Active Voice, which means that the subject (He/she) is the doer of the action of the verb (has sent) and "the dress" is the direct object. Your sentence: "The dress has been sent" is in the Passive Voice, which means that the subject (The dress) is the receiver of the action of the verb (and was sent by some unknown person). As Iago has already said, one way to express the Passive Voice in Spanish is "El vestido se ha enviado" = "The dress has been sent." In this sentence, think of the "se" as serving as a marker that the sentence is in Passive Voice. It is usually not translated. You might want to think of the "se" here as representing the unknown person who sent the dress and translate it (in your head, only!) as "someone" or "they" to help yourself understand the sentence. The other way to express the Passive voice is to use some tense of the verb "ser": "El vestido ha sido enviado" = "The dress has been sent. For more info see: http://spanish.about.com/cs/verbs/a/passive_se.htm
P.S. What makes this even more confusing is that there are many other uses of "se." You may want to take a look at:
or even better, if you can take it:
Shortsy, You may be overthinking this construction. It is simply Subject-Verb-Object placement: Ha enviado el vestido. The present participle form of the verb contains the subject, he/she/it, plus the two-part (continuing action) verb "has sent," plus the object of the action (dress), with only the addition of a tiny article "the" modifying the direct object, "dress."
To know what these are, you can look for those conjugated verb forms for "has/have" and then the verbs look like an infinitive form with the "r" dropped and substituting "-ido o -ado" endings. If you have moved far past that lesson, perhaps this will help others. As always, subject to correction by those more knowledgeable :-)
When "they" is used in English, the plural verb forms are used even when referring to an individual. He sends but they send. It's somewhat like the French formal "you" being plural, if I remember my high school French correctly (I probably don't). In Spanish the plurals are also gender specific, so switching from a Spanish singular to an English plural for the sake of gender neutrality isn't going to help with learning the language even if it can be argued that it's technically correct. Especially if you are doing so only because neither él nor ella were specified in the original.
are "he HAS SENT the dress" and "he SENT the dress" the same. I think that this is more of an English grammar question? In Spanish does the presence of "has" (in first example) make it the Present Perfect Tense and "sent" by itself make it the Preterite Tense? This is really hard for me....I look forward to a reply.
Past tense and present perfect tense are different ways of expressing something that happened in the past. They are not interchangeable.
The past tense in spanish (preterite) describes actions that have happened, are done with, had a definite time frame during which they happened. "It rained yesterday"
The present perfect tense describes actions in the past...that have some bearing on the present situation. 'It has been raining for days" (and it still is raining) vs. "It rained for days" (last week, last year, 7 years ago).
Laura, No, it doesn't say SPECIFICALLY who sent the dress, but the conjugated verb "has/have" specifies that it was "he, she, it, or "you" (formal =usted) that sent the dress. Reading the thread above has some good points for learning this construction, "Present Participle."
Yes, it's wrong. In DL's sentence, "Ha enviado" is in the present perfect tense (meaning "he/she/it has sent" or "you have sent"). When you say "he had sent" you change it to past perfect tense. That sentence would be: "Había enviado...."