The Passive and Impersonal Verbs

The Passive and Impersonal Verbs

The Passive Voice

  • The Passive Voice allows you to talk about an action without specifying who carried it out. It is composed of a form of the verb “ser” + past participle + “por” + agent (optional). For example, “La puerta fue cerrada por Juan” (“The door was closed by Juan”).
  • Spanish uses the Passive Voice less frequently than English. Rather, in cases where English might use the passive, Spanish might use an impersonal construction or an active construction with a general subject.
  • The use of the passive voice in Spanish is often considered more formal or literary. In spanish conversation, it is more common to use the active voice or reflexive constructions.
  • Be careful with past participles in passive constructions - they must agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to. For example, “Las casas son pintadas” (The houses are painted), not “Las casas son pintado”.
  • Use of the Passive Voice is common when writing news reports or formal texts in Spanish.

The Impersonal “Se” and Impersonal Expressions

  • “Se” Impersonal constructions: This is another way to convey the idea of the passive voice. It involves using the impersonal “se” followed by the third person singular of the verb. For instance, “Se venden manzanas” would translate as “Apples are being sold”.
  • The Impersonal “Se” can also be used with verbs that normally require a reflexive pronoun, for example “Se vive bien en esta ciudad” (“One lives well in this city”).
  • The verb form that follows the impersonal “se” is usually in the third person singular. However, it is in the third person plural if the noun is plural.
  • Impersonal expressions often use the infinitive, for example “Es importante estudiar” (It’s important to study).

The Verb “Haber”

  • The verb “Haber” can be used in its impersonal form to say there is, there are, there was or there were. For example, “Hay muchos libros” (There are many books).


  • Practice your skills in distinguishing between, and using active and passive forms in Spanish, as well as the impersonal verbs, to improve your overall understanding of Spanish Grammar.