The English language urges us to refrain from using the passive voice and to instead use the active voice. See the difference:
- Active voice: The best team wins the game.
- Passive voice: The game is won by the best team.
In Spanish the passive voice is common and acceptable, both orally and written. There are a few different ways to express the Spanish passive voice; keep reading to learn about it all!
SER + PAST PARTICIPLE
The construction of the first - and easiest - form of the Spanish passive voice is pretty much the same as in English; the object or person receiving the action of the verb is followed by a form of the verb ser and a past participle. If the agent is stated (the person or object performing the action of the verb), the preposition por follows it.
Keep in mind that the verb ser must be conjugated to agree with the subject preceding it and that the past participle has to agree in gender and in number with the noun modifying it
- La carrera es ganada por el caballo más rápido.
(The race is won by the fastest horse.)
- Estos libros fueron escritos por mi autor favorito.
(These books were written by my favorite author.)
The second type of passive voice is a bit trickier for English speakers to master, given that the English language doesn't have a direct equivalent. This passive voice, while it can be used when referring to a specific subject or group, is usually employed to generalize. This type of sentence expresses the idea that "they do something", "you (in general) do something", "people do something" or "one does something". For example:
Keep in mind that the verb is conjugated in the third person singular (él, ella, usted) or plural (ellos, ellas, ustedes) depending on the noun that comes after. In the first sentence below, for example, since los perros is plural, the verb permitir is conjugated in third person plural: se permiten. In the last example, on the other hand, ropa de hombre is singular, so vender is conjugated into the third person singular form: se vende.
- No se permiten los perros en el hotel.
(Dogs are not allowed in the hotel.)
- Se alquilan pisos en este edifico.
(They are renting flats in this building / There are flats for rent in this building / Flats are being rented in this building.)
- En esta oficina se come a las 14:30.
(In this office people eat at 14:30 / In this office one eats at 14:30)
- Se vende ropa de hombre en esta tienda.
(Men's clothing is sold in this store.)
This Spanish sentence structure has no direct English equivalent, is highly idiomatic and translates roughly to "One must... " The construction is:
hay + que + infinitive verb
- Hay + que + estudiar mucho para sacar buenas notas.
(One must study a lot to get good grades.)
- Hay + que + hacer ejercicio y comer bien.
(One must exercise and eat well.)
- Hay + que + ser optimista en situaciones difíciles.
(One must be optimistic in difficult situations.)