In Spanish, any sentence which expresses an action can be written in either Active Voice or in Passive Voice:
- Sentences in Active Voice are those in which the subject does the action of the verb.
- Sentences in Spanish Passive Voice are those in which the subject receives (not does) the action of the verb.
For example, instead of saying “Egyptians built the pyramids” (Active Voice), we can use the Passive Voice and say “The pyramids were built by Egyptians”. In that sentences the subject (the pyramids) receives the action of the verb.
There are 2 ways of forming the Passive Voice in Spanish, one with the verb “ser” and one with the particle “se”.
In this grammar lesson we will learn both, going through the following points:
1. Passive Voice with verb “ser”
We form the Passive Voice with verb “ser” with 2 words:
- The first word is the verb “ser” properly conjugated.
- The second word is the Past Participle of the main Verb. We need to match the Past Participle’s ending to the gender and number of the subject.
Let’s see some example sentences, and for the first couple of them we will offer an analysis of their passive voice:
Example sentences with verb “ser”
La canción es cantada.
The song is sung.
Analysis: The verb “ser” has been conjugated in Present Tense: “es”. Then, we have adapted the Past Participle of the verb “cantar” (“cantado”) to “cantada”, so that it matches the gender and number of “la canción”: feminine singular.
Los edificios son construidos por la compañía.
The buildings are built by the company.
Analysis: The verb “ser” has been conjugated in Present Tense: “son”. Then we have adapted the Past Participle of the verb “construir” (“construido”) to “construidos”, so that it matches the gender and noun of “los edificios”: masculine plural.
Also, in this case we have included at the end the doer of the action, introduced by the word “por”.
Remember… The Passive Voice with the verb “ser” is the right one to use if we wish to also include the doer of the action, introduced by the word “por”.
More example sentences with verb “ser”:
El libro es leído por los alumnos.
The book is read by the students.
Las revistas son publicadas por la editorial.
The magazines are published by the publishing house.
El árbol fue cortado.
The tree was cut down. (Preterite Tense)
2. Passive Voice with particle “se”
We form the Passive Voice with the particle “se” also with 2 words:
- The first word is always the particle “se”, without any variation.
- The second word is the main verb, properly conjugated.
Example sentences with particle “se”
La canción se canta.
The song is sung.
Analysis: we have conjugated the verb “cantar” in Present Tense for the 3rd person singular, because “la canción” is singular.
Los edificios se construyen.
The buildings are built.
Analysis: We have conjugated the verb “construir” in Present for the 3rd person plural, because “los edificios” is plural.
More example sentences with particle “se”:
Esto se hace así.
This is done this way.
Las cartas se envían por correo.
The letters are sent by post.
El secreto se olvidó.
The secret was forgotten. (Preterite Tense)
3. Practice: A Quiz
Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about the Spanish Passive Voice:
4. Practice: Exercises
Do the following two exercises and find the solutions at the end of this post.
A) Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Passive Voice. Use the Passive Voice with the verb “SER” in Present Tense:
Estas camisetas _____ _____1.(diseñar) en Italia y _____ _____ 2.(fabricar) en China. Luego _____ _____ 3. (exportar) a Estados Unidos y _____ _____ 4. (comprar) por consumidores americanos.
B) Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Passive Voice. Use the Passive Voice with the particle “SE” in Present Tense:
En mi colegio, los exámenes _____ _____ 5. (hacer) cada tres meses. Además, cada mes _____ _____ 6. (exponer) un trabajo sobre un tema diferente. Las notas finales ______ _____ 7. (recibir) en junio.
Solutions to Exercise A) 1 = son diseñadas, 2 = son fabricadas, 3 = son exportadas, 4 = son compradas
Solutions to Exercise B) 5 = se hacen, 6 = se expone, 7 = se reciben