Practice Makes Perfect: Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions, Premium 3rd Edition (2016)

Part I. PRONOUNS

Chapter 14. The pronoun se and the passive voice

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The passive voice

The passive voice is used to describe an action that is carried out but has no specific, identified agent. For example, in the sentence “The doors are unlocked at 5:30,” there is no identified subject or agent. We don’t know whoactually unlocks the doors. The following examples contrast the active and passive voices.

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Each sentence in the active voice has a specific subject, but the corresponding sentence in the passive voice has an unspecified subject: We don’t know who closes the shop, who heard the baby’s cries, or what blew down the tree.

There are two ways to express the passive voice in Spanish: (1) using a form of ser and a participle and (2) using se and a conjugated form of the verb.

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In both of these examples, the passive voice expresses the result of an action, but not the agent or performer of the action.

Formation of the passive voice with se

To use se as a substitute for the passive voice in Spanish, place se before the conjugated verb in the third person. If the noun following the verb is singular, conjugate the verb in the third-person singular. If that noun is plural or if there is a series of nouns, conjugate the verb in the third-person plural.

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Complete each sentence with the correct form of the verb given in parentheses.

  1. Se _________________ (vender) ropa en Bloomingdale’s.

  2. Se _________________ (comer) mucho pescado en Japón.

  3. Se _________________ (hacer) películas en Hollywood.

  4. Se _________________ (bailar) la rumba y el mambo en Cuba.

  5. Se _________________ (cultivar) café y azúcar en El Salvador.

  6. Se _________________ (exportar) oro, azúcar, café y níquel de la República Dominicana.

  7. Se _________________ (bailar) flamenco en España.

  8. Se _________________ (fabricar) coches en Detroit.

  9. Se _________________ (limar = to file) las uñas en el salón de belleza.

10. Se _________________ (fabricar) papel en el noroeste de los Estados Unidos.


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Traducción

  1Spanish is spoken here.

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  2Spanish and French are spoken here.

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  3Shoes are sold there.

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  4Fireworks (los fuegos artificiales) are not sold to teenagers (el adolescente).

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  5Entrance (la entrada) is not permitted (permitir) before 10:00.

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  6Cameras are not permitted in the theater.

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  7Gold and jewels are not considered good investments (la inversión).

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  8The restaurants and the museums are closed on Mondays.

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  9The bank is closed at two thirty.

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10Piñatas are made (fabricar) in this factory (la fábrica).

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Using se to indicate an impersonal subject

In Spanish, as in English, an impersonal subject is frequently used. In Spanish, se is used to indicate an impersonal subject—both singular and plural. For example, in the sentence Se baila la cumbia en Colombia (“They dance the cumbia in Colombia”), we don’t know specifically who “they” are. There are no names or faces attached. The subject could refer to many people in general, but in fact refers to no one in particular.

In English, another common impersonal subject is the word “you,” as in “You shouldn’t call me after nine.” Other frequently used impersonal subjects in English include “one,” “it,” “people,” “anybody,” and “no one,” some of which are singular and some plural. All of these ways of expressing impersonal subjects in English are covered in Spanish by the pronoun se.

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Note that in the examples above showing an impersonal subject, the third-person singular form of the verb is always used in Spanish, even in those cases when the English expression uses a plural verb. However, in Spanish, when the third-person plural form of the verb is used to express the same concept, the reflexive se is dropped, as shown in the examples below.

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Most platitudes employ an impersonal subject with the se construction, as shown in the example below.

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Traducción

  1You should pay your taxes (los impuestos) every April.

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  2You can’t be in two places at the same time (al mismo tiempo).

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  3You need to change the oil (el aceite) in your car every (cada) three thousand miles.

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  4One shouldn’t blame (culpar) others for the results (el resultado) of his/her actions.

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  5One should exercise (hacer ejercicio) and meditate (meditar) daily.

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  6They should make these maps clearer. You can’t read this!

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  7You can’t get (extraer) blood from a turnip (el nabo).

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  8You can’t judge (juzgar) a book by its cover (la portada).

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  9People should brush their teeth after (después de) eating.

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10You can swim and play tennis in this club.

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11In order to dance La Bamba, you need a little bit of grace (una poca de gracia).

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12They never explained the UFOs (el OVNI).

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13Can one go in (entrar)?

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14In this store, people pay a fixed price (un precio fijo).

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15It is said that you should look before (antes de) you leap (saltar).

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The passive voice with inanimate objects

We often speak of actions that take place for which there is no—or at least no apparent—human element involved in the action, for example, “My car breaks down on me every winter.” We also refer to actions that clearly are performed by humans, but for which the mention of those humans is irrelevant, for example, “The store opens at 10:00.”

In such situations, we use the passive voice, which allows us to ignore the performer of the action and focus on the action itself. If the noun is singular, use the singular form of the verb; if the noun is plural, use the plural form.

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Note that the noun can either precede or follow the verb.

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Traducción

  1The mall (el centro comercial) closes at nine thirty.

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  2You get angry when you pay a fortune to see a movie, and you sit in front of idiots who talk constantly (sin cesar).

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  3Lightbulbs (la bombilla) usually burn out (quemarse) after one hundred hours.

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  4When a car breaks down (estropearse) on the freeway (la autopista), it’s a catastrophe (el catástrofe) for everyone.

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  5What time does that restaurant open?

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  6The sun sets (ponerse) at 8:30 P.M. in the summer.

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  7With this appliance (el aparato), your lights turn on (encenderse) and turn off (apagarse) automatically (automáticamente).

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  8After the holidays (los días de fiesta), millions of toys break (romperse).

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  9When she sings, all the glasses break (quebrarse).

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10The museums close at six sharp (en punto).

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Traducción

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I want to go to Madrid for my next vacation. I have a brochure with me now. Let’s see! What can a person do in Madrid? They say here that the Prado is one of the world’s greatest museums and that you can spend several days exploring its treasures. It says that in Madrid the subway system is very good, so one doesn’t need to rent a car. You can take the subway to all the sites in the city. If you go to a good restaurant in Madrid, you can try roast piglet. Also, El Retiro is a lovely park, and people can rent little boats to go around the pond. You can attend the bullfights, and you can dance until five o’clock in the morning. You can do everything in this marvelous city!

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