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Passive voice in spanish?

 

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  #1  
Old April 20, 2008, 09:51 PM
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Passive voice in spanish?

On my english papers, I have been reprimanded for my tendency of using a "passive voice". I think that means "to be" + verb. Is this passive voice used the same way in spanish, and is it acceptable in high school-college level writing?
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  #2  
Old April 20, 2008, 11:39 PM
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Verbs are grouped into an active voice, as in 'My dad drove the car,' or a passive voice, 'The car was driven by my father.' In the active voice, the subject is the agent, or 'doer' of the action. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed (The car was driven - The plan was adopted).

The passive voice is a 'to be + past participle' construction in both languages. This construct occurs frequently in English. It isn't a good idea to always use it, however. Your teacher wants you to write straight-forward sentences instead of overusing the passive voice. This is a proper expectation in high school and college work.

In Spanish, the passive voice is not used as frequently as in English. Instead, a reflexive verb construct is much more prevalent. A very good example can be seen in this popular phrase: Se habla español
Here is the passive voice English translation: Spanish is spoken here
Here is another translation, using an active voice: One speaks Spanish here
You'll note that the latter translation sounds odd to us because we like to know who is doing the speaking. If we don't know who that person is, we tend to use the passive voice. To a person whose native language is Spanish, however, it doesn't at all sound strange to use se habla español. If the subject is acted upon by some other agent, or if it is unnamed, they use a reflexive construct. I doubt you'll ever see a sign that reads español está hablado aquí. If you do, it was probably written by someone whose native tongue is English.

Using a reflexive construct instead of the passive voice in Spanish is an important concept to master (and understand).
Tip: When the subject is not known, thinking 'one speaks Spanish' will help you remember to use a reflexive construct.


It is very common in Spanish for a subject to be acted upon, rather than to do the action. This is another case where the reflexive construct is used.
Examples of being acted upon instead of doing the action:
I forgot my keys = se me olvidaron las llaves (the keys forgot me - I didn't forget them!)
I dropped the vase = se me cayó el florero

Last edited by Rusty; April 21, 2008 at 09:09 PM.
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Old April 21, 2008, 07:59 AM
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Thank you Rusty!

You have a very natural way of explaining things. You have refreshed my memory with this explanation.

Thanks again!
Elaina
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Old April 21, 2008, 10:16 AM
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good one Rusty!
apuntate una!
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Old April 21, 2008, 12:50 PM
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Great post Rusty. Just one small thing. Wouldn't it be se me olvidaron las llaves not se me olvidó las llaves?
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Old April 21, 2008, 01:28 PM
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Yes, you're right. Thanks, David! (Post corrected.)

Last edited by Rusty; April 21, 2008 at 09:11 PM.
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Old April 22, 2008, 03:03 PM
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Thanks a bunch, Rusty =]
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Old April 24, 2008, 11:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomisimo View Post
Great post Rusty. Just one small thing. Wouldn't it be se me olvidaron las llaves not se me olvidó las llaves?
Actually, both are correct!

The former is pasiva refleja, last one is impersonal. It's the same case as:
  • Se vende casas. (Impersonal)
  • Se venden casas. (Pasiva refleja)
Anyway, this is a deep grammar concept on which many grammarians are loosing their youths. It is not worthwhile focusing on it.
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Old April 26, 2008, 03:39 PM
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I didn't know that. It just goes to show you that you learn something every day.
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Old May 02, 2008, 07:37 AM
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Se vende casas sounds incorrect to me. Is it ok?
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