Today, we’ll talk about the Spanish passive using the verb ser. Let’s begin!
In general, we refer to the passive voice as a form of speech in which the action relapses on the object instead of the subject. Let’s recognize this structure across English and Spanish with the following example:
- Active voice: The author wrote the fifty-two-thousand-page book in less than three weeks.
[Subject] [Main Verb in Past Tense] [Object] [Complements]
- Passive voice: The fifty-two-thousand-page book was written by the author in less than three weeks.
[Verb “to be” in Past Tense + Past Participle]
Spanish (literal translation)
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- Voz activa: El autor escribió el libro de cincuenta y dos mil páginas en menos de tres semanas.
[Sujeto] [Verbo Principal en Pasado] [Objeto / Complemento Directo]
- Voz pasiva: El libro de cincuenta y dos mil páginas fue escrito por el autor en menos de tres semanas.
[Verbo “ser” en Pasado + Participio]
The main difference between active and passive voice is that the subject and the object switch places. The verb keeps its place in the sentence, but its structure changes to “to be” / ser conjugated in the same tense as the main verb in the active voice. We also always add the past participle of the main verb, followed by the preposition “by” / por when the subject is explicit.
Note: We must bear in mind that the verb ser (to be) is an irregular verb, therefore its conjugations in the different verb tenses will alter its spelling in Spanish.
The past participle
In Spanish, the verbs have three different conjugations according to their ending. Because of this, we find three distinct “past participles” (participios) endings for regular verbs:
|First Conjugation (-ar)||Second Conjugation (-er)||Third Conjugation (-ir)|
|Alquilar – Alquil-ado(To rent – Rent-ed)||Proteger – Proteg-ido(To protect – Protect-ed)||Corregir – Correg-ido(To correct – Correct-ed)|
Remember that in the passive voice the participles act as adjectives, so in Spanish they must agree in gender and number with the main object (noun/pronoun).
Let’s go through some examples:
- El libro será editado por el autor la próxima semana y tendrá cincuenta y dos días para entregarlo a la editorial. (The book will be edited by the author next week, and he will have fifty-two days to deliver it to the publisher.)
Structure: [Object] [Verb] [by] [Subject] [Complements]
In the above example, we can identify the past participle editado (edited) as its Infinitive verb form belongs to the first conjugation editar (to edit). Also, you can notice that the main object libro is a singular and masculine noun, so the participle has to agree with it as well.
- El libro de mil páginas ha sido escrito por la famosa autora J.K. Rowling de cincuenta y dos años. (The thousand-page book has been written by the famous fifty-two-year-old author J.K.Rowling.)
Note: The main verb escribir (to write) is an irregular verb, and its past participle form escrito (written) agrees in gender and number with the object libro.
The verb “to be” is conjugated in the third-person singular of the present perfect (ha sido / “has been”), which hints that this should be the verb tense of the main verb in the active voice (ha escrito / “has written”).
- El autor es invitado por la academia a escribir un nuevo libro de mil páginas acerca de la salud mental. (The author is invited by the academy to write a new thousand-page book about mental health.)
Note: The past participle of the main verb invitado (invited) belongs to the first conjugation, as its infinitive form is invitar (to invite).
We can guess that the main verb in the active voice should be conjugated in the present tense as follows: La academia invita el autor (The academy invites the author).
And there you have it: the passive voice in Spanish! You can also check out our article on how to form the passive using the verb estar.
Written by Nicole Oliveira
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