Studied any grammar recently? Chances are you haven’t unless you’ve been getting your Spanish together because you’re planning on going abroad soon. What about your English grammar? Does the term passive voice sound familiar? Perhaps not, but you definitely use  passive structures on a daily basis when you speak and write. As you can imagine, the passive voice also exists in the Spanish language. Today we’re going to take a look at it.

The passive voice


The passive voice [ser + participio pasado]

Despite there being a few different options when it comes to expressing English passive sentences in Spanish, what’s actually known as la voz pasiva is the structure ser + participio pasado [por + sustantivo]. Here are some examples of the structure in three tenses:


presente pretérito perfecto compuesto pretérito + participio
yo soy he sido fui
eres has sido fuiste
él/ella/usted es ha sido fue + amado/ -a
nosotros/-as somos hemos sido fuimos + amados/ -as
vosotros/-as sois habéis sido fuisteis
ellos/-as/ustedes son han sido fueron


Some example sentences are:

El detenido ha sido condenado a 3 años de prisión.

La sede de mi empresa ha sido trasladada a Bruselas.

El acueducto de Segovia fue construido por los romanos.

La persistencia de la memoria fue pintada por Dalí.


The voz pasiva is used in Spanish in a similar fashion as in English: in order to emphasize the person or thing receiving the action and/or omit the active subject because it is unknown/unimportant/obvious. It is common in newspapers and historical accounts, among other types of writing.


Other impersonal structures

In addition to la voz pasiva, there are other structures in Spanish which can be used when the active subject is not of interest. The first of these is se + verbo (en voz activa). In this case, although the verb is actually in the active voice, the sentence is impersonal, thus typically translating to the passive in English. Here are some examples:

Se habla español.

Spanish is spoken.


Se vende

For Sale


Desde hace años, ya no se puede fumar en espacios públicos en España.

For years now, it has been illegal in Spain to smoke in public places.


Se siente, pero así son las cosas.

That’s too bad, but that’s just the way it is.


Another option is to use the third person plural form, not uncommon in English either:


No me han llamado todavía para hacer la resonancia.

They still haven’t called me to schedule the MRI.


¿Al final van a subirnos el sueldo este mes?

So, are we going to get a raise this month after all?


¿Te han dicho algo?

Have you heard anything back yet?


Be Passive!

The voz pasiva and impersonal constructions are very common in Spanish, just like in English, so you’ll need to use them. They make take a bit of practice, but they are necessary, so time to be passive!