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Forming passive sentences with "se" (la pasiva refleja)

The passive voice (for example "The house was sold") is not widely used in Spanish the way it is in English, but there is a way to make a passive sentence using the pronoun se. This structure is possible with transitive verbs, i.e verbs that have a direct object. The invariable se is placed in front of the verb.

Have a look and listen to these examples:

Se vende apartamento de lujo en la playa.A luxurious apartment is for sale at the beach.

Se venden apartamentos de lujo en la playa.Luxurious apartments are for sale at the beach.

Notice that if the direct object is a singular noun (apartamento), the verb is conjugated in the 3rd person singular (vende), while with a plural direct object (apartamentos) the verb is conjugated in the 3rd person plural (venden).

Here are some other examples using different tenses:

Se buscan secretarias con experiencia.Experienced secretaries are needed.

Se necesita albañil.A builder is required.

Aquí se vende el periódico barato.Here the newspaper is sold cheaply.

El otro día se publicaron unas noticias desagradables.The other day some unpleasant news was made public.

Mis cortinas nuevas se han hecho en dos días.My new curtains were made in two days.

Las negociaciones se harán pronto.The negociations will be completed soon.

One of the contexts where we find this "se" structure is on instructions (i.e explaining how to make something step by step). In these cases there are different ways to translate them into English; the most common translations are: "You [do something]", "One [does something", or "Something is [done]". 

Have a look at the following examples:

Primero, se cortan las verduras y después se ponen en el horno.First, [you] cut the vegetables and then [you] put them in the oven.

Se unen estos dos extremos para formar un triángulo.These two corners are joined to form a triangle.

Para preparar un buen gazpacho, se añade mucho aceite de oliva.To make a good "gazpacho" one adds [needs to add] a lot of olive oil.

 

Don't confuse this use of se with the se used for general statements like "One does.../People do/ Something is done. For this other specific use see Expressing instructions and general statements with the impersonal se = one.

 

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Examples and resources

Se venden apartamentos de lujo en la playa.Luxurious apartments are for sale at the beach.
Se necesita albañil.A builder is required.
Aquí se vende el periódico barato.Here the newspaper is sold cheaply.
Para preparar un buen gazpacho, se añade mucho aceite de oliva.To make a good "gazpacho" one adds [needs to add] a lot of olive oil.
Mis cortinas nuevas se han hecho en dos días.My new curtains were made in two days.
Se buscan secretarias con experiencia.Experienced secretaries are needed.
Se unen estos dos extremos para formar un triángulo.These two corners are joined to form a triangle.
Se vende apartamento de lujo en la playa.A luxurious apartment is for sale at the beach.
Primero, se cortan las verduras y después se ponen en el horno.First, [you] cut the vegetables and then [you] put them in the oven.
Las negociaciones se harán pronto.The negociations will be completed soon.
El otro día se publicaron unas noticias desagradables.The other day some unpleasant news was made public.
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