Spanish Passive Voice (present tense)

Beginner Spanish - Level A2

Overview

The passive voice (pasiva) emphasises an action or a condition. Who or what caused the action or condition is unimportant, unknown, or assumed to be general knowledge. Spanish has two ways of expressing passive sentences: the passive voice and the passive “se” (pasiva refleja) both of which are translated using the passive voice in English grammar.

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Passive Voice in Spanish

When form phrases in Spanish, we can use the active voice, where the subject performs an action upon an object, like 'A' threw 'B'. Or we can turn it around and use what we call the passive voice. 
The recipient of the action then becomes the subject. All that means is that the focus will be on B, and what happened to him/her/it. 'B' was thrown. If we want to, we can also add who did it: ‘B' was thrown (by A). But that is the point of the passive, that the object becomes the primary focus in a sentence.
 
Let’s look at an example of someone getting arrested. We can avoid the passive voice by using the ‘se pasiva,’ (‘se detuvo a Raúl’), the impersonal third person plural construction (‘detuvieron a Raúl’), or by keeping it active (‘la policía detuvo a Raúl.).
 

Ser + past participle

When we can’t avoid it, we use the passive voice by conjugating the verb ‘ser’ and adding a past participle. Let’s look at some examples in various tenses.

El primer acto siempre es seguido por el segundo acto. The first act is always followed by the second act.
Millie fue encontrada en el restaurante. Millie was found in the restaurant.
Durante su enfermedad, el gato era examinado cada día por la veterinaria. During his illness, the cat was examined every day by the vet.
La obra será grabada. The performance will be recorded.
En aquel zoo, los animales serían maltratados. In that zoo, the animals would get mistreated.

Ser

Now let’s look at forming the verb ‘ser’ in more detail. We’re going to give you the conjugations for the present, preterite, imperfect, future, and conditional tenses. That way you’re ready for anything, although ‘ser’ + past participle isn’t actually used much with the present or imperfect!

Present:

soy somos
eres sois
es son

Preterite:

fui fuimos
fuiste fuisteis
fue fueron

Imperfect:

era éramos
eras erais
era eran

Future:

seré seremos
serás seréis
será serán

Conditional:

sería seríamos
serías seríais
sería serían
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The passive voice is often used in Spanish in impersonal constructions:

La casa está siendo limpiada.     The house is being cleaned.

The main thing about the Spanish passive voice, is that they belong more or less to formal language. They are often used in newspapers, books, television, radio, and the like. This voice is rarely used in regular everyday conversations.

The way we form the passive voice is very similar to English, except that the indirect object can never be used as a subject. For instance, “He sido dicho que venga” (I have been told to come). This sentence is not correct because the omitted subject “Yo” is the indirect object of the sentence “Me han dicho que venga (they have told me to come). Only direct objects can act as subjects in passive constructions:

He visto a Juan. Juan ha sido visto.   I have seen Juan. Juan has been seen.

Estoy pintando el auto. El auto está   I am painting the car. The car is being painted.

siendo pintado.

When the verb “to be” has to be used twice in a passive sentence, the first one is always “estar.” This word is used in the present passive tense. Another important difference is that the past participle has to agree in gender and number with the subject:

Juan está siendo operado.                   Juan is being operated on.

Juana está siendo vestida.                   Juana is being dressed.

 

The agent, usually preceded by “por”(by), is normally placed at the end of the sentence, but can also follow the verbal sequence:

He sido llevado al cine por mis padres. I have been taken to the movies by my parents.

He sido llevado por mis padres al cine.

 

The preposition “con” (with) is often needed to introduce the grammatical agent of a passive sentence.

 

Fue golpeada con un martillo.             She was hit with a hammer.

 

Be careful with sentences with the verb “estar” and past participles. These sentences look like passives but they do not have that function, as the past participle used acts as an adjective that refers to a specific situation.

 

La luz estaba encedida. (semipassive)   The light was on.

La luz fue encendida. (passive)               The light was turned on.

 

This happens because many past participles are used as adjectives. The following sentences are examples of the passive in different tenses:

 

El auto fue robado (indefinido)                 The car was stolen

El dinero me ha sido devuelto.                 The money has been given back to me.

Seremos castigados.                                 We will be punished.

Debería haber sido reparado                    It should have been repaired.

 

How to write in PASSIVE VOICE / VOZ PASIVA in Spanish (examples of Active and Passive voice)

Rewrite the following sentences in the passive tense.

 

  1. Han atropellado a la niña.

_______________________________.

 

  1. Estoy abriendo la lata.

           _______________________________.

 

  1. Estoy escribiendo en el libro.

_______________________________.

 

  1. María está ayudando al alumno.

           _______________________________.

 

  1. Deberías haber traído la cesta.

_______________________________.

 

  1. No he podido hacer el exámen.

_______________________________.

 

  1. Me vieron con ella en el cine.

_______________________________.

 

  1. Te van ha dejar en mi casa.

_______________________________.

 

  1. Hemos comprado tres kilos de manzanas.

_______________________________.

 

  1. Teresa está enseñando matemáticas en la clase.

_____________________________________.

 

Answer Key:

  1. La niña ha sido atropellada.
  2. La lata está siendo abierta.
  3. El libro está siendo escrito por mí.
  4. El alumno está siendo ayudado por María.
  5. La cesta debería haber sido traída.
  6. El exámen no ha sido hecho por mí.
  7. Ella ha sido vista en el cine.
  8. Tú serás dejado en mi casa.
  9. Las manzanas han sido compradas.
  10. Las matemáticas están siendo enseñadas por Teresa.

La alumna - The student                    

Abrir - To open

El alumno - The student                    

Aprender - To learn

La clase - The class                          

Asistir - To attend

El director - The director                   

Entrar en - To enter    

La escuela - The school                    

Empezar - To begin                  

El maestro - The teacher                    

Enseñar - To teach      

El libro - The book                              

Estudiar - To study

El cuaderno - The notebook                

Receso - Recess

El lápiz - The pencil                            

Leer - To read

El borrador - The eraser                    

Escribir - To write

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