Passive voice in Italian

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How to make a sentence passive Italian
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Passive voice

Take a look at the following two sentences and think about what they mean and how they’re different:

  • The prime minister held a conference yesterday.
  • A conference was held by the prime minister yesterday.

In the first example, the verb is active, meaning the subject of the sentence (the prime minister) does the action (held).

In the second example, the verb is passive, because the subject of the sentence (a conference) is acted upon.

The first sentence places more emphasis on the prime minister, whereas the second sentence emphasizes the conference.

So, basically, the passive voice reverses the subject (the doer) and object of action since it moves the emphasis away from the doer and more on the action itself.

Now, have a look at the following sentences:

  • When was this school built?
  • My car was stolen.
  • Horrible things were said about that.

We used the passive because the agent of the action is unknown or impersonal.

We use the passive voice in Italian too. It is very similar to how it is used in English.

Let’s learn more about the passive voice in Italian!

The passive voice in Italian

The passive voice in Italian

In order to understand how the passive voice works in Italian, let’s analyze the same idea first using the active voice and then the passive voice:

I miei genitori pagano l’affitto.

My parents pay the rent.

VS.

L’affitto è pagato dai miei genitori.

The rent is paid by my parents.

As you can see, we use the verb essere plus the past participle of the main verb followed by da (by) or its contractions (dal, dallo, dalla, dai, dagli, dalle).

Here’s the structure:

  • corresponding conjugated form of essere + past participle + da/dai/dalla, etc.

Essere should be in the same tense as the verb in its corresponding active sentence.

For example, if in the active voice the verb is in the present, we’ll use the present in the passive voice too.

The past participle agrees in gender and number with the subject.

The passive form in Italian

How to make a verb passive in Italian

When we use the passive voice in Italian, the verb essere should be conjugated accordingly depending on what we want to say.

In the following examples, we’ll use the same idea but with different tenses so that you understand the transformation between sentences A (active voice) and sentences B (passive voice).

In the presente indicativo:

A: Noi firmiamo il contratto.

A: We sign the contract.

VS.

B: Il contratto è firmato da noi.

B: The contract is signed by us.

In the passato prossimo:

A: Noi abbiamo firmato il contratto.

A: We signed the contract.

VS.

B: Il contratto è stato firmato da noi.

B: The contract was signed by us.

In the imperfetto:

A: Noi firmavamo il contratto.

A: We signed the contract.

VS.

B: Il contratto era firmato da noi.

B: The contract was signed by us.

In the futuro:

A: Noi firmeremo il contratto.

A: We will sign the contract.

VS.

B: Il contratto sarà firmato da noi.

B: The contract will be signed by us.

In the congiuntivo imperfetto:

A: Voleva che noi firmassimo il contratto.

A: He wanted us to sign the contract.

VS.

B: Voleva che il contratto fosse firmato da noi.

B: He wanted the contract to be signed by us.

And in the condizionale presente:

A: Noi firmeremmo il contratto.

A: We would sign the contract.

VS.

B: Il contratto sarebbe firmato da noi.

B: The contract would be signed by us.

The Italian passive voice

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Passive voice without an agent

Like in English, in Italian the doer is sometimes unmentioned.

This places more emphasis on the action itself, without concern for who did what.

Here are some examples:

La cena è servita alle 8.

Dinner is served at 8.

Il palazzo è stato costruito venti anni fa.

The building was built twenty years ago.

Le tue cose sono state buttate per sbaglio.

Your stuff was thrown out by mistake.

Riccardo fu tanto amato nella sua vita.

Riccardo was very loved in his life.

Voi sarete sempre benvenuti.

You will always be welcome.

How to make a sentence passive in Italian

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