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THE PASSIVE - a voice not a tense (a construction to you and me). In English the passive consists of any tense of the verb ‘to be’and apast participle it wasstolen You can test for a pastparticiple by checking that it can follow ‘I have …….’ E.g. I have stolen/sold/kept they will be sold the jewels are kept When you spot a passive in English, stop and think because there are 4 possible ways of tackling it in Spanish.
Method 1: If you know who did it, say so! This turns a passive into an active sentence and avoids the construction totally (which is what Spaniards tend to do). E.g. The novel waswritten by Cervantes. TURN IT ROUND: Cervantes wrote the novel. Now translate the new version of the sentence: Cervantes escribió la novela. (This uses the ordinary preterite tense - and only one verb instead of two!)
Method 2 : The reflexive If you don’t know “who did it”, then use the reflexive to imply “it did itself”. Very weird to our English brains - but totally normal in Spanish. E.g. The books arekept in the cupboard. (We don’t know who keeps them) …… The books keep themselves in the cupboard (!!) Los libros se guardan en el armario. NB. the tense of the verb ‘to be’ tells you which tense to put the Spanish verb into. Spanish is spoken in many areas of New York. (We are not told who speaks it) …… Spanish speaks itself in many areas of New York (!!) Se habla español en muchas zonas de Nueva York.
Method 3 “The anonymous they” The previous method (the reflexive) could be misleading in certain sentences, and if this is so, the ‘they’ form of the verb is used instead. Just say “They did it”! The prisoners werereleased last night. (If we use the reflexive, we would be saying ‘The prisoners released released themselves last night’ and create a chaos of misunderstanding!) So instead, we say ‘They released the prisoners last night’ Libertaron a los presos anoche (which uses the preterite).
Method 4: The literal passive I call this the literal passive because it is simply a literal, word for word translation of the English version. It is just ONE of the versions used by Spaniards - it is important to be able to manage the others too. In English we use a tense of the verb ‘to be’ and the past participle In Spanish we use a tense of the verb ‘ser’ and the past participle. THE PAST PARTICIPLE MUST AGREE WITH THE SUBJECT. The passengers were greeted at the airport The passengers were greeted at the airport Los pasajeros fueron saludados en el aeropuerto
Method 4 cont’d The wool will be exported abroad. The wool will be exported abroad. La lana será exportada al extranjero. Once again, the tense of ‘to be’ will indicate the tense to choose for ‘ser’ The vegetables are bought at the market. The vegetables are bought at the market. Las legumbres son compradas en el mercado.