The passive voice in Spanish

The passive voice in Spanish is a grammatical construction used to put the focus on the action performed on the subject, rather than on the one performing the action. Learn how to form the passive and when to use this type of sentence and improve your Spanish.


Formation of the passive in Spanish

The passive voice in Spanish is a grammatical structure used to express an action in which the subject of the sentence receives the action, rather than carries it out. That is, the focus is on what happens to the subject, rather than who performs the action.

The formation of the passive voice in Spanish involves two main components:

Auxiliary verb "to be" conjugated in the corresponding person and verb tense (present tense, imperfect preterite, simple perfect preterite, etc.) + Past participle of the main verb.

It is important to remember that in the passive voice, the direct object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence, and the one who performs the action (the subject of the active sentence) is placed with "by" or "on behalf of" in the passive sentence.

Conjugation of the auxiliary verb: ser

Personal pronouns Present tense Pretérito imperfecto Pretérito perfecto simple Futuro simple Conditional
Yo soy era fui seré sería
Tú eres eras fuiste serás serías
Él/Ella/Usted es era fue será sería
Nosotros/Nosotras somos éramos fuimos seremos seríamos
Vosotros/Vosotras sois erais fuisteis seréis seríais
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes son eran fueron serán serían

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Important aspects of the passive sentence

  • Past participle: to form the passive it is necessary to include the past participle of the main verb of the sentence, which must agree in gender and number with the subject of the sentence. The past participle of regular verbs is formed as follows:

Verbs with infinitive ending in -ar: The ending is replaced by -ado.
Verbs with infinitives ending in -er: The ending is replaced by -ido.
Verbs with infinitives ending in -ir: The ending is replaced by -ido.

  • Past participle inflection: The past participle is inflected to agree in gender and number with the subject. For example, "The books were read" (plural) and "The book was read" (singular).

  • Direct object and indirect object pronouns: When the direct or indirect object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive, these pronouns are placed before the auxiliary verb "to be" and the past participle. For example, "I was given an award" becomes "I was given an award."

  • Omission of the agent: In many cases, the agent performing the action (introduced by "by") may be omitted if it is not relevant or unknown. For example, "The cake was made" (by someone not specified).

  • Frequent use in formal writing: The passive voice is most frequently used in formal registers of language, such as academic documents, reports, news, etc.


Conclusion

The passive voice in Spanish is a grammatical construction used to put the focus on the action performed on the subject, rather than on the one performing the action. It is formed with the conjugated auxiliary verb "ser" and the past participle of the conjugated main verb of the sentence. Don't forget that in the passive voice the direct object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence, and the one who performs the action (the subject of the active sentence) is placed with "por" or "por parte de" in the passive sentence! To learn the passive voice in Spanish we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the basic structure of the passive voice in Spanish by constructing simple sentences to understand how it is formed. If you have any questions or need more examples, feel free to contact us or visit our Spanish courses.


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