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Remember how much your grammar teachers hated the passive voice? Spanish speakers hate it even more. Nonetheless, they recognize that passive constructions are sometimes needed to avoid specifying the subject of a verb’s action, and one of the ways to do this is with the passive reflexive.
|La ventana se abre con dificultad.
|The window is difficult to open.
|Aquí se venden manzanas.
|Apples are sold here, We sell apples.
|Se habla español.
|We speak Spanish, Spanish is spoken here.
Characteristics of the passive reflexive
- Uses a non-pronominal verb in a passive sense
- Requires the reflexive pronoun se
- Has a verb in the third person singular or plural
- Is usually equivalent to the English passive voice
Passive reflexive vs Passive voice
There is a slight difference in meaning between the Spanish passive reflexive and passive voice.
La ventana se abre con dificultad. sounds like either something happening right now or a general, ongoing fact. "The window is difficult to open" (I’m having a hard time right now) or "The window is (always) difficult to open."
In comparison, La ventana es abierta con dificultad indicates that someone had a hard time opening it: "The window was difficult to open., The windows was opened with difficulty."
Passive reflexive in other tenses
The passive reflexive can be used in any tense or mood.
|Se reparó fácilmente.
|It was easily repaired.
|Este plato se comía en grandes banquetes.
|That dish was eaten at big banquets.
|Las puertas se abrirán dentro de quince días.
|The (store) doors will open within two weeks.
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