The Spanish pasiva refleja (passive se) is a Spanish structure often used to divert the emphasis from who or what performs the action and place it on the action itself and/or its object. The pasiva refleja is so called as it shares characteristics both with the passive voice and the reflexive structure.
|ACTIVE VOICE||PASIVA REFLEJA|
La empresa necesita urgentemente a un conductor para los fines de semana.
(The company urgently needs a driver available on weekends.)
Se necesita urgente conductor para fines de semana.
(Driver available on weekends needed urgently.)
Given the focus is placed on the object (rather than the subject), the passive se can only be used with transitive verbs, that is, those verbs that require an object to express full meaning.
As seen in the example above, the object of the active voice becomes the subject of the passive se sentence, whilst the former subject is omitted. For this reason, the Spanish pasiva refleja always employs the third person of a transitive verb, preceded by se.
Depending on whether the new subject is singular or plural, the third person of the verb will be conjugated accordingly, with subject and verb often switching places within the sentence.
Let’s look at some examples:
Se regalan libros. → Books giveaway (books are given away).
El museo se cerrará a las ocho de la noche. → The museum will close at 8pm.
Se comió la tarta. → The cake was eaten.
Se pinta en el jardín. → The painting session takes place in garden.
Se firmarán los contratos. → The contracts will be signed.
La torre se construyó hace muchos siglos. → The tower was built many centuries ago.
The Passive se in Public Announcements:
The Spanish passive se is commonly used in want ads and other public announcements, particularly the following formulas:
Se venden… → …for sale
Se alquila… → …for rent
Se busca/necesita… → …required/needed/wanted
The Passive Refleja to give instructions:
Similarly, the pasiva refleja is frequently used in how-to guides, cookery books and instructions manuals to explain how to complete a task:
Se cortan las verduras en sentido diagonal. → Cut the vegetables diagonally.
Se tira la mascarilla a la papelera. → Throw the mask in the bin.
Se cubre la raíz de la planta con la tierra. → Cover the plant roots with soil.