Let's talk about the passive voice in Spanish!
Let's start by understanding the concept of voz (voice) in a sentence- in English or Spanish. This refers to the relationship between a sentence's subject and verb. A sentence's voice can be active or passive. But what's the difference?
In the active voice, the subject performs a verb's action onto an object and is thus considered the sentence's actor or agent (the person or thing that carries out the action). Let's see some examples:
Pedro come galletas.
"Pedro come galletas" [Pedro eats cookies].Play Caption
In this caption, Pedro is the subject/agent who executes the action of "eating" the object (the cookies).
eh... pintábamos muchísimos fondos oscuros
um... we painted a ton of dark backgrounds
Caption 99, María Marí Su pasión por su arte - Part 1Play Caption
In this example, "we" is the subject/agent who carried out the action of "painting" the object, "a ton of dark backgrounds."
Gabriel García Márquez escribió muchos libros.
Gabriel García Márquez wrote a lot of books.Play Caption
And finally, here, Gabriel García Márquez is the subject, and agent, who performed the action of "writing" the object (a lot of books).
The Passive Voice
In the passive voice, on the other hand, what was previously the object in the active voice actually becomes the subject, but, this time, receives the action of the verb. At the same time, the previous subject becomes a "passive agent" who may or may not be mentioned at the end of the sentence. That said, before finding out how to convey sentences in the passive voice in Spanish, let's convert our previous English examples of the active voice to the passive voice:
Active: Pedro eats cookies
Passive: Cookies are eaten by Pedro
um... we painted a ton of dark backgrounds
um... a ton of dark backgrounds were painted by us
Active: Gabriel García Márquez wrote a lot of books.
Passive: A lot of books were written by Gabriel García Márquez.
Now that we have a better concept of the passive voice, how do we express it in Spanish? Let's learn two different formulas for doing so.
In this first formula, the verb ser (to be) is conjugated in accordance with the subject of the sentence and followed by a past participle (you may wish to consult this lesson that covers conjugating the past participle). In this construction, the participle (the equivalent of English words like "spoken," "eaten," "gone," etc.) must agree with the subject in terms of number and gender. Subsequently, por plus an agent may be optionally added to explain who or what completed the action. Let's take a look at some examples of this formula in Spanish:
y es escrito por mí personalmente.
and is personally written by me.
Caption 46, Los Tiempos de Pablo Escobar Capítulo 1 - Part 7Play Caption
En el Siglo dieciocho, las costas de San José en Almería eran asaltadas frecuentemente por piratas
In the eighteenth century, the coasts of San José in Almería were assaulted frequently by pirates
Captions 32-33, Club de las ideas Batería de breves - Part 1Play Caption
Las tarjetas fueron usadas
The cards were usedPlay Caption
Note that in accordance with las tarjetas, the third person plural of ser, fueron, is used along with the feminine plural participle usadas. However, in contrast to the other two examples where por is used to identify the person or people who carried out the action, here, the agent is unknown and thus unmentioned. Let's move on to our second formula.
This construction is formed with se and a verb in third person singular or plural, depending upon whether what is being spoken about (the subject) is singular or plural. Let's see a few examples:
Este vino se hace con una de las uvas más populares
This wine is made with one of the most popular grapes
Caption 21, Amaya Cata de vinosPlay Caption
las corridas se celebraban en la Plaza Mayor.
bullfights were held in the Plaza Mayor.
Caption 5, El Trip MadridPlay Caption
"Garr", no entiendo para qué se hicieron esos uniformes.
Garr, I don't understand why those uniforms were made.
Caption 53, Club 10 Capítulo 1 - Part 2Play Caption
In the first caption, the verb hacer is conjugated in the third person singular to agree with el vino, while celebrar and hacer in the second and third examples are plural in agreement with las corridas and los uniformes. Notice that there is no mention of the entity who performed the action in any of these sentences since this second formula rarely mentions the action's agent.
The passive voice is more commonly encountered in the media or literature or when the agent that carried out the action is unknown or considered less relevant. It can only be used with transitive verbs, or verbs that are capable of transmitting some action onto a direct object. In terms of tenses, you may have noticed that our examples have included the present, imperfect, and preterite. While the passive voice formulas contain particular grammatical specifications, there is no mention of any of the specific Spanish verb tenses because active Spanish sentences in any verb tense can be converted to the passive voice. With this in mind, let's conclude this lesson with a present perfect tense example of the verb descubrir (to discover) in the active as well as both formats of the passive voice:
Científicos han descubierto que cuando un abrazo dura más de veinte segundos se produce un efecto terapéutico
Scientists have discovered that when a hug lasts more than twenty seconds, a therapeutic effect is produced
Captions 5-7, Aprendiendo con Silvia El abrazoPlay Caption
Ya que ellos, pues, han sido descubiertos en Inglaterra
Since they, well, have been discovered in England
Caption 40, Hugo Rodríguez Duendes artesanalesPlay Caption
porque se han descubierto muchas virtudes
because many virtues have been discovered
Caption 9, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 1Play Caption
That's all for today. For more information on the passive voice in Spanish, check out this four-part video series on La voz pasiva as well as this lesson on the passive vs. impersonal se constructions. And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
Just like any other language, Spanish has adopted many words from different languages and cultures. These words are known in Spanish as extranjerismos, a term that comes from the word extranjero (foreign). That said, let's take a look at some of the most common words in Spanish that come from other languages.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Spanish language adopted several Arabic words. Let's see some of them:
Soy Miguel Ángel Herrera, alcalde de Genalguacil,
I'm Miguel Angel Herrera, mayor of Genalguacil,
Captions 2-3, Viajando con Fermín Genalguacil - Part 2Play Caption
el álgebra, que estudia las estructuras abstractas,
algebra, which studies abstract structures,
Captions 48-49, Carlos explica Vocabulario de las matemáticas - Part 1Play Caption
con media taza de azúcar
with half a cup of sugar,
Caption 25, Ana Carolina Ponche navideñoPlay Caption
aprendí a tocar la guitarra de una manera diferente
I learned to play the guitar in a different manner
Caption 55, Luis Guitarra Influencias musicales - Part 1Play Caption
saben a naranja.
taste like orange.
Caption 34, Ariana Cita médicaPlay Caption
If you hear the way Ariana pronounces the word naranja, you can notice the strong sound of the letter "j," which is a sound that the Spanish language took from the Arabic language.
Just like in the English language, Spanish has also adopted many words derived from French. Let's see some of the most popular ones:
hasta lo que hoy es conocido como el Bulevar donostiarra,
to what is known today as the "Bulevar donostiarra" [Donostiarra Boulevard]
Caption 28, Días festivos La Tamborrada de San SebastiánPlay Caption
que Amalia se quedó con él y con el chofer, ¿sí?
because Amalia stayed with him and with the driver, right?Play Caption
unas estructuras de poder muy basadas en la élite, en la exclusión.
some power structures [that were] very based on the elite, on exclusion.
Caption 12, Los Tiempos de Pablo Escobar Capítulo 1 - Part 1Play Caption
Many words from various indigenous Latin American cultures were incorporated into the Spanish language after the arrival of the Spaniards to the Americas. The following are some of the most popular words:
Ellos jugaban con una pelota de caucho
They played with a rubber ball
Caption 85, Guillermo el chamán La cosmología de los mayasPlay Caption
guitarra, cuatro, güiro, maraca, bongo,
guitar, cuatro, güiro, maraca, bongo [drum],
Caption 32, Sonido Babel La plena de Puerto RicoPlay Caption
En los Andes se usa mucha papa y muchas cremas.
In the Andes, many potatoes are used and many creams.
Captions 75-76, Recetas de cocina Papa a la HuancaínaPlay Caption
¿Qué es realmente el tomate?
What really is the tomato?
Caption 30, Fermín Ensalada de tomatePlay Caption
Many Italian words made their way into the Spanish language during the Renaissance. Let's check out two of them:
Tomo unos mates en el balcón
I have some servings of mate on the balcony
Caption 7, GoSpanish La rutina diaria de SolPlay Caption
basada en una novela de Paul van Loon
based on a novel by Paul van Loon
Caption 4, Europa Abierta Fucsia la pequeña brujaPlay Caption
And last but not least, we have extranjerismos that come from the English language. Here a few:
que hagan un perímetro por dentro y por fuera del club, vaya.
that they should surround us inside and outside the club, come on.Play Caption
El fútbol es un deporte que fue inventado en Inglaterra
Soccer is a sport that was invented in England
Caption 8, Sergio El fútbol en EspañaPlay Caption
In this translation, we used the word "soccer" instead of "football." However, the Spanish word comes from the original British term "football."
La India Catalina era la líder de la tribu indígena que habitó en la ciudad, anteriormente llamada la Isla Calamarí.
India Catalina was the leader of the indigenous tribe who inhabited the city, previously called Calamari Island.
Captions 26-27, Viajando en Colombia Cartagena en coche - Part 3Play Caption
una ciudad cosmopolita, luminosa y que pone al servicio del turista una amplia variedad de infraestructuras.
a cosmopolitan, luminous city that puts at the service of the tourist a wide variety of infrastructures.
Captions 10-11, Málaga Semana SantaPlay Caption
That's all for this lesson. We hope you enjoyed this list of foreign-influenced words in Spanish. Can you think of any additional extranjerismos in Spanish? Don't forget to let us know with your comments and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!