https://www.duolingo.com/ygpdxwlr

The Passive Voice in Spanish

ygpdxwlr
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I thought that since my post on conditional sentences in Spanish was helpful to a few people, I would attempt to explain how passives, another thorny topic, work in Spanish as well. I have borrowed some example sentences from here.

The passive voice which uses “ser” is not a very common structure in Spanish, but the somewhat equivalent (in meaning, not in structure) reflexive is very common. Also notice that an agent cannot be specified in the latter structure, since the reflexive implies that the subject is acting on itself.

Present Simple

Active

  • I make a cake.
  • Hago un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake is made (by me).
  • Un pastel es hecho (por mí).
  • Un pastel se hace.

Present Continuous

Active

  • I am making a cake.
  • Estoy haciendo un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake is being made (by me).
  • Un pastel está siendo hecho (por mí).
  • Un pastel se está haciendo.

Past Simple

Active

  • I made a cake.
  • Hice un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake was made (by me).
  • Un pastel fue hecho (por mí).
  • Un pastel se hizo.

Past Continuous

Active

  • I was making a cake.
  • Estaba haciendo un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake was being made (by me).
  • Un pastel estaba siendo hecho (por mí).
  • Un pastel se estaba haciendo.

Present Perfect

Active

  • I have made a cake.
  • He hecho un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake has been made (by me)
  • Un pastel ha sido hecho (por mí).
  • Un pastel se ha hecho.

Present Perfect Continuous

Active

  • I have been making a cake.
  • He estado haciendo un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake has been being made (by me).
  • Un pastel ha estado haciendo (por mí).
  • Un pastel se ha estado haciendo.

Past Perfect

Active

  • I had made a cake.
  • Había hecho un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake had been made (by me).
  • Un pastel había sido hecho (por mí).
  • Un pastel se había hecho.

Future Simple

Active

  • I will make a cake. or I am going to make a cake.
  • Haré un pastel. or Voy a hacer un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake will be made (by me). or A cake is going to be made (by me).
  • Un pastel estará haciendo (por mí). o Un pastel va a estar haciendo (por mí).
  • Un pastel se hará. o Un pastel se va a hacer.

Future Perfect

Active

  • I will have made a cake.
  • Habré hecho un pastel.

Passive

  • A cake will have been made (by me).
  • Un pastel será hecho (por mí).
  • Un pastel se habrá hecho.

It is common advice to avoid the passive voice both in English and in Spanish, but I would dare to say that using the passive structure that implements “ser” is indeed even more egregious in Spanish than in English.

Note than in the reflexive structure (using “se”), the verb agrees with the subject in number. For example:

  • Breakfast is served here. (Note that “is” is used here, but never seen in the Spanish below.)
  • Se sirve desayuno aquí. (Because “desayuno” is singular.)

but,

  • Gold and silver are sold here. (Note that “are” is used here, but never seen in the Spanish below.)
  • Se venden oro y plata aquí. (Because “gold and silver” is plural.)

There are also instances where a natural passive in English cannot be directly translated into Spanish without changing its structure slightly. For example:

  • John was given the award by the professor.

In Spanish, you have two options:

  • El profesor le dio el premio a Juan. o
  • El premio fue dado a Juan por el profesor.

However, notice that the equivalent English translations have effectively changed to:

  • The professor gave the award to John. and
  • The award was given to John by the professor.

Please feel free to make suggestions and I’ll make adjustments where necessary.

3 years ago

11 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/tomigaoka

Thank you for posting this. Very useful. This is one of the SPanish topic that for a serious Spanish Learners, should dig into for a deeper understanding of how Spanish grammar works and it is not enough that one will say hes fluent without knowing the applications of SE or PASSIVE VOICE wherein for me i mostly encounter in written articles. This is an advance knowledge of Spanish so you earn my respect.

I've been studying advance Spanish long time and the use of SE or the topic of PASSIVE VOICE is one of the hardest to master.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ygpdxwlr
ygpdxwlr
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Thank you for your very kind words. I am glad to have been of assistance :-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ekfto456

it helps me a lot ! thanks a lot.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ygpdxwlr
ygpdxwlr
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¡No hay de qué! :-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/roberto727

Mil gracias por los ejemplos..¿ Entonces crees que hayamos debido a corregir las frases de la imersión a la voz pasiva cuando parece ser necesario?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ygpdxwlr
ygpdxwlr
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"crees que hayamos debido a corregir" -> "crees que debemos (we must) / deberíamos (we should) corregir (correct) / haber corregido (have corrected)"

Creo que lo que procede es encontrar un equilibrio entre exactitud y cuán natural suena la traducción. Como en el ejemplo arriba, si encuentras una frase como "Breakfast is served here.", sería mejor traducirla como "Se sirve desayuno aquí." y no "Desayuno es servido aquí." Pero todo depende del contexto.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/roberto727

Gracias. ¿"Crees que" no debe seguir con subjunctivo?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ygpdxwlr
ygpdxwlr
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Depende. Por ejemplo, si estamos comiendo sopa y crees que la sopa es muy buena, me preguntarías "¿Crees que la sopa es buena?" porque esperas una afirmación, pero si crees que la sopa no es buena, me preguntarías "¿Crees que la sopa sea buena?"

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MartySel1
MartySel1
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gracias amigo! Esto me ayuda mucho, creo que esto es muy util para mi

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ygpdxwlr
ygpdxwlr
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¡De nada! :-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/roberto727

AHHH! Una gran iluminación. Otra vez, muchos gracias. Eres muy amable.

3 years ago
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