The passive voice / La voz pasiva

Spanish passive voice. Visit

The most important thing about Spanish passive voice is that it is rarely used. 

In the passive voice the direct object (the noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb) of the active voice becomes the subject, and the subject becomes the agent. In the following examples you will see it clearly:

Active voice

Mi abuelo construyó esta casa.                         
My grandfather built this house.

Passive voice

Esta casa fue construida por mi abuelo.    
This house was built by my grandfather.

As in English, Spanish passive voice forms putting the auxiliary verb ser(to be) into the same tense of the active verb and adding the participle of the active verb. The participle agrees in gender and number with the subject of the passive voice. The agent is introduced by por:

Estas casas fueron construidas por mi abuelo.  
These houses were built by my grandfather.

Estos muebles fueron diseñados por Ana.
These furniture items were designed by Ana.

The most important active tenses/verb forms and their passive equivalent are shown in the following chart. The regular verb amar (to love) is used as an example:

              Tense / verb form             Active                        Passive

ser amado
siendo amado
sido amado
(yo) amo
(yo) soy amado
Present perfect
(yo) he amado
(yo) he sido amado
(yo) amaba
(yo) era amado
(yo) había amado
(yo) había sido amado
(yo) amé
(yo) fui amado
(yo) amaré
(yo) seré amado
(yo) amaría
(yo) sería amado
Present Subjunctive
(yo) ame
(yo) sea amado

Passive voice is widely used in English. It is used when you want to stress the thing done or the doer is unimportant or unknown. But, in Spanish, passive voice doesn’t sound natural, especially in speech. Instead of using it, there are two common ways of translating English passive voice:

       1.  Active voice / La voz activa

As in Spanish it is not necessary to use an explicit subject, English passive constructions can usually be translated as active, putting the verb in the 3rd person plural form.

Construyen una casa aquí cerca.

A house is being built near here / They are building a house near here.

         2.  Reflexive passive voice / La pasiva refleja

It is formed with the pronoun se + verb in the 3rd person (singular or plural). The subject is the direct object of the active voice sentence and the verb agrees with it. Used above all in signs and advertisements, when it is not important to mention the agent.

Se vende piso.                                                Apartment for sale.

Se habla inglés.                                              English spoken.

Se mataron en un accidente de coche.             They were killed in a car crash.

  Be careful not to confound the reflexive passive voice with impersonal sentences. Impersonal sentences don’t have a subject.

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