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As I am sure all readers know the true passive is available in Spanish but is commonly avoided. By true passive I mean the one formed with the past participle. For instance this question and answer to When should I use the pure passive voice in Spanish? ( fue/fueron [past participle] ) suggests that Spanish prefers the voz pasiva refleja. My fairly ancient grammar devotes about one page to the passive and two to how to avoid it and it only gets on to that in chapter XXIII out of XXV.

This has often puzzled me and I wonder whether this has always been the case or whether this is a modern trend. I appreciate that historical answers can only consider the written language and it is my impression that the passive is even less common in the spoken language.


Note I am now really confused about this as the people who commented state that my assumption is incorrect but in his recent reply to this question @Rodrigo clearly states that what I defined as the passive is indeed avoided in Spanish in favour of what he calls the reflexive passive.


Note 2 I found the initial comments very instructive and helpful in clarifying my thoughts and teaching me some more about Spanish terms for Spanish grammar. They also made me realise that things which I put in my original question which I had hoped would provide background in fact served to obscure things. For instance if I was starting from scratch I would not have used the reference to the grammar book. For me the fact that it devotes so few pages to the passive and that so late in the book reinforces the view that it is not that important or widely used either in English or in Spanish whereas some people drew the opposite inference from it. In retrospect I would not have used the term 'avoid' either which was clearly wrong and unhelpful. I think in the light of the comments I would have asked something like: Did the form of the passive with se always co-exist with the form with ser + past participle or is it a recent development?

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    I think I don't understand completely this question. I think passive voice is as common in Spanish as it is in English. Perhaps your book recommends avoiding it for being a more difficult construction for beginners, but I think it is as common and as useful as it is in English. Could you explain a little more where do you feel it is commonly avoided? – DGaleano Sep 29 '16 at 14:10
  • I was not including the use of passive constructions with se as true passive but only fue etc with the past participle. I have added a link to an old question which has some detail about the use of the different forms. Perhaps this is a mis-conception on my part. – mdewey Sep 29 '16 at 14:19
  • Well that confirms what I suspected. The same accepted answer can be applied to English. Most people will say "the delegates accepted the proposal" and most TV news announcer would say "The proposal was accepted by the delegates" Don't you agree? Obviously the more complex the construction the less common in everyday language and more common in educated or formal environments, but I still think this is true for both English and Spanish. Whether you use or not of passive voice It all depend on how you want to sound... well educated or street level. :-) – DGaleano Sep 29 '16 at 14:40
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    It probably has more to do with anything that Spanish tends to not allow as much flexibility with verb valency as does English. English can readily change verbs from intransitive to transitive to ditransitive without problem. Spanish tends to be more strict in that respect. The "work around" led to the development of the pasivo reflejo, which in turn removes the need for true passive —unless the agent must be explicitly mentioned— which has a radically different structure. – user0721090601 Sep 29 '16 at 15:10
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    Pasive form it's usually longer that other forms. It's not a surprise that native speakers avoided it. – amchacon Oct 9 '16 at 7:32
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+50

The short answer is no. Why? because the fact that is less common is not the same as being avoided. Instead, it only means that is used on a reduced set of situations and not always on every day speaking/writing.

I think passive voice is as common in Spanish as it is in English. Perhaps your book recommends avoiding it because it is a more difficult construction for beginners, but I think it is as common and as useful as it is in English.

Consider these examples.

All delegates accepted the proposal = Todos los delegados aceptaron la propuesta

vs.

The proposal was accepted by all delegates = La propuesta fue aceptada por todos los delegados.

Most people would say "All delegates accepted the proposal" and most TV news announcer would say "The proposal was accepted by all the delegates". This applies for both English and Spanish. Don't you agree?

Obviously the more complex the construction the less common in everyday language and more common in educated or formal environments, but I still think this is true for both languages.

Whether you use or not passive voice it all depends on how you want to sound in every situation... like a well educated person, like a TV announcer or street level.

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  • Being a casual street person myself, i find it more natural to say "the proposal was accepted by all the delegates". Your argument about "street vs educated" is flawed. However, i agree that the active voice is generally a simpler conjugation than the reflexive. You should change your answer to emphasize this rather than attempt an argument based on one's level of education. – Paul Oct 19 '16 at 13:50
  • Sorry @Paul It is not classist. When I say "street level" I mean that everybody is able to use everyday language no matter their class or social level. But if you are writing your PhD dissertation I guess you will use some language you don't use at "street level". Different structures are used in different contexts and passive voice is less common (not inexistent) in everyday language. – DGaleano Oct 19 '16 at 14:02
  • Just to clarify (a) the form ingles es hablado aqui is in fact easier for us than aqui se habla ingles not the other way round as you suggest (b) what I asked originally was about history, perhaps I should rephrase it, Has it always been like this when Spanish emerged from Latin or did it come later? – mdewey Oct 19 '16 at 16:04
  • (a) If it is easier for you to use the passive, then do use it. The fact that it is less common does not mean it should be avoided or never used. It could be used and will be understood in any situation you think it is appropriate or when it is easier for you to convey an idea. If you use it correctly people will understand regardless if a native would prefer reflexive when you prefer passive. (b) how can there be a history about something that do not exists? My point is there is no avoidance. There is only less common situations where the form passive is prefered, however correct. – DGaleano Oct 19 '16 at 16:25

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