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I want to ask a question about the passive nature of haber in the sentence

Me han robado la cartera.

I was studying Spanish and this sentence came up, and I couldn't break down the sentence at first.

Consider the first fragment of the sentence

Me han robado

Using my intermediate knowledge of Spanish, I am aware that this means

They have robbed me

noting that "me" is either a direct object or indirect object pronoun.

However, the next fragment

Me han robado la cartera

doesn't seem to fit the current line of reasoning.

I found out that the sentence means

My wallet was robbed

but this implies a passive nature, which is not evident since a group of thieves – given by the conjugation of haber to han clearly states a third party was actively involved in the action, and I was the receiver of the action.

How does the noun la cartera logically fit with this sentence to give a passive nature of "My wallet was robbed" compared to the original analysis "They have robbed me my card"?

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The verb "haber" is merely a perfect tense auxiliary and its use is not in any way related to the sentence being active or passive. We could in fact use a simple tense:

a. Me robaron. (I was robbed.)

b. Me robaron la cartera. (My wallet was stolen.)

Both sentences:

  1. Me han robado.

  2. Me han robado la cartera.

are correct and active, even if they can be translated as passive sentences for the reason mentioned below.

Sentences (1) and (2) have an indeterminate (and tacit) subject "they":

1a. They have robbed me.

2a. They have robbed me of my wallet.

The fact that the subject is indeterminate leads to the best translation being a passive sentence, where the subject becomes the person robbed or the object stolen:

1b. I have been robbed.

2b. My wallet has been stolen.

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  • Understood, I liked the explanation! My question is then, assuming that from your example that the object pronoun "me" is an indirect object pronoun, does it then serve as a possessive identifier when used in this way i.e. it is my wallet that was robbed, as in sentence (2)?
    – vik1245
    Sep 29 at 12:57
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    Exactly. Instead of using the possessive determiner, Spanish usually uses personal pronouns in indirect object position: Me curaron la pierna: They cured my leg / Le aprobaron el pedido: They approved his/her request / Nos arreglaron el auto: They fixed our car
    – Gustavson
    Sep 29 at 13:46
  • Me robaran. = I was robbed by them. But we would say in fact: They robbed me. and: They've robbed my wallet. We would not use the passive in English unless it is meaningful in context in a case like this.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30 at 20:26
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Me han robado la cartera. is just a simple sentence in Spanish but not in the translation.

It would translate idiomatically to:

They've stolen my wallet. The verb is plural: they have stolen. Singular would be: Me ha robado la cartera.

The Spanish verb and pronoun order is: robar algo a alguien. All the pronouns here are indirect. to steal something from someone.

The verb is not haber per se here. It is the passive voice of robar in the present perfect. Third person plural: han robado. He robado, has robado,ha robado, hemos robado, etc. ' This structure is very, very common in Spanish. And it is not a direct object as in English. They robbed or stole my wallet. In English, my wallet is a direct object. In Spanish, the person from whom a thing is stolen is an indirect object, this is called a reflexive verb, and it must be in the sentence to make sense. Not so in English: They stole my wallet. does not require one to say: from me.

  • Me han dejado en caso. [They dropped me at the house.]
  • Les han vendido un coche. [They sold them a car.]
  • Nos han lavado el perro. [They washed the dog for us].

Me robaron or me robó la cartera: They/he stole my wallet. OR My wallet was stolen by them or him or her.

In Spanish, the only way to say "He stole my wallet". is to say: Me robó la cartera. And that is literally in English: My wallet was stolen by him.

In learning any language, you have to get used to usages that may seem strange to you. This is one of them. :). And it can get pretty tricky.

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  • 1
    "Me han robado la cartera" is active in Spanish. The passive would be "La cartera me ha sido robada".
    – Gustavson
    Sep 29 at 19:14
  • @Gustavson I meant reflexive, not passive.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30 at 19:29
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    It is not reflexive, or pronominal - if that is what you mean by "reflexive" - either. It is an active sentence with a tacit subject (ellos), a direct object (la cartera) and an indirect one (me).
    – Gustavson
    Sep 30 at 20:09
  • @Gustavson Ok, I see what you mean. Will make a change.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30 at 20:23

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