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Voice in Spanish Verbs

What's a voice in Spanish?

No, it's not the sound of someone speaking in Spanish.

Not in the context of Spanish verbs and grammatical terms anyway!

A voice tells whether the subject of the (transitive) verb acts or is acted upon.

Active voice denotes that the subject of the verb is the actor. For instance:

José escribio el libro.
José wrote the book.
María cerró la puerta.
María closed the door.

Passive voice in Spanish denotes that the subject of the verb is the receiver of the action. For instance:

Este libro fué escrito por José.
This book was written by José.
La puerta fué cerrada por María.
The door was closed by María.

A verb whose past participle is used with any tense of ser is said to be in the passive voice.

When past participles are used with ser, or estar, they agree in gender and number with the words to which they relate.

Past participles with haber never change their ending -o.

The English "by", preceeded by the passive voice, is translated by por when the action is physical, and by de when the action is mental. Examples:

America fué descubierta por Cristobal Coló.
America was discovered by Christopher Columbus.
Abraham Lincoln es admirado y respetado por todos.
Abraham Lincoln is admired and respected by all.

When the actor or agent of the action is not expressed, you may also use the passive voice. Example:

Los libros fueron vendidos.
The books were sold.

Spanish people, however, prefer a reflexive -se + the verb in the third person - or a verb in the third person plural. Example

Se vendieron los libros.
The books were sold.
Aquí se habla español.
Spanish is spoken here.

The English indefinite "one", "you", "they", "people", etc., + an active verb, or the impersonal passive fomed with "it", may also be expressed in Spanish by the above forms. Examples:

Se dice que el Presidente llegará mañana.
or
Dicen que el Presidente llegará mañana.
They say the President will arrive tomorrow.
¿Cómo se dice eso en español?
How does one say that in Spanish?

In the above expressions, an indirect object pronoun may be placed between se and the verb to indicate the person to whome something has been said, done, etc.. For instance:

Se me dice que el Presidente llegará mañana.
I'm told the President will arrive tomorrow.

Estar + a past participle does not form the passive voice.

It is used not to describe an action, which ser + a past participle does, but to describe a situation or stationary condition. For instance:

La puerta estaba cerrada cuando llegué.

The door was closed when I got there.
Las ventanas estaban abiertas, y yo las cerré porque hacía much frío.
The windows were open, and I shut them because it was too cold.
La casa está rodeada de un bello jardín..

The house is sorrounded by a beautiful garden.

[Note that you use de, not por, to describe a stationary condition.]

That, for now, is the extent of our discussion about the voice in Spanish.

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