Spanish Passive Voice (all tenses)


The passive voice refers to a sentence in which the subject receives the action. In other words, the subject is passive, or acted upon. For example: El libro fue leído por Juan. In this sentence, the book receives the action performed by Juan, the agent.

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When we use the passive voice, the receiver of an action gets moved to the subject position. This is done in order to shift the focus to whatever the action is that is being done, rather than the person.

Spanish has two forms of passive: the passive with “ser” and the “se – pasiva.”

There are two formulas you can use to form the passive form in Spanish:

Ser + past participle + por + agent

Ser + third person.

In the following sentences, we will form the passive in Spanish using several tenses such as past, and present. Note that the person who does the action is not the subject anymore, and the recipient of the action (written in bold) has become the subject.

El libro fue leído por Emilio.

The book was read by Emilio.

Se establecieron las casas hace muchos años.

The houses were established many years ago.

The passive voice is formed with the correct form of “ser + past participle, and the past participle works as an adjective when is used in the passive voice. It is important that it agrees with what it is describing:

La pizza fue comida inmediatamente.             The pizza was eaten immediately.

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.

It is important that you are careful 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 encendida (semi passive)           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 form being used in different tenses:

l auto fue robado (past)                                     The car was stolen

El texto está siendo estudiado. (present continuous)           The text is being studied.

El dinero me ha sido devuelto (preterit perf)     The money has been given back to me.).

Ella puede ser arrestada. (future simple)         She can be arrested.

Debería haber sido reparado. (conditional)       It should have been repaired.

Esto es producido en Brasil (present simple)   This is produced in Brazil.

Impersonal structures such as “It is said,” “It is thought,” and so on, are translated by

Se + active verb.

Se dice que él es un ladrón                               It is said that he is a robber.

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Additional Topics

Aztec Temple at ruins of Tenochtitlan with the Dome of Metropolitan Cathedral - Mexico City, Mexico
Spanish Passive Voice (all tenses)

Spanish passive voice formation is pretty straightforward. All you need is a subject (which is the object in the active sentence), the verb “ser” followed by the past participle of the active verb. Subject + ser + past participle

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.