Language Guide
Pronouns
Passive "Se" in Spanish

Passive "Se" in Spanish

Quick Answer
  • The passive voice is generally used to talk about a person or object without making mention of whoever or whatever is performing the action on that person or object.
  • Passive se constructions are one way of using the passive voice in Spanish. Only transitive verbs (verbs that require a direct object) are used in passive se constructions.

Passive Se Formula

The passive se is always formed using the third person singular or third person plural of a verb. If whatever you're talking about is singular, the verb is singular; if the whatever you're talking about is plural, the verb is plural.

se + third person (singular/plural) verb + (singular/plural) noun

Se vende queso.
Cheese sold here.
 
Se compran muebles usados.
Used furniture bought here.
 

Common Uses of the Passive Se

Want Ads and Other Public Announcements

The passive se is commonly seen in want ads and other types of public announcements.

The passive se constructions Se busca  and Se vende  can be translated into English as Wanted and For sale, respectively. These two phrases are especially common in classified ads and signs on properties.

Se busca casa con tres cuartos.
Wanted: a house with three bedrooms.
 
Se venden vestidos.
Dresses sold here.
 
Se vende casa con 3 dormitorios y 2 baños.
For sale: house with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.
 

Instructions

It's common to see the passive se used in instruction manuals, cookbooks, and other types of publications that tell you how to do something.

Se cortan las papas y las cebollas en pedazos.
The potatoes and onions are cut into pieces.
 
Se mezclan los ingredientes por 5 minutos.
The ingredients are mixed for 5 minutes.
 

When the Person Performing an Action is Unknown or Unimportant

Finally, it's also very common to for the passive se to be used when you don't know who performs an action, or it doesn't matter who does it. In these constructions, the action being performed (rather than the performer of the action) is considered the most important part of the sentence.

Se servirán bebidas en el jardín.
Drinks will be served in the garden.
 
¿A qué hora se abren las tiendas?
What time do the shops open?
 
Las casas se pintan de azul.
The houses are painted blue.
 

Looking for more on the passive se? Check out our article on the impersonal se and the passive se!

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