What is the passive voice?
Let’s look at an example of the Passive voice in Italian:
A: Il cane ha mangiato la gallina.
A: The dog eats the hen.
B: La gallina è mangiata dal cane.
B: The hen is eaten by the dog.
In sentence A, we place the emphasis on the dog, whereas in sentence B, the emphasis is placed on the hen.
Let’s get started!
What are dovere, potere, and volere?
Dovere (to have to), potere (to be able to), and volere (to want) are special verbs because they are usually followed by a verb in the present infinitive (its base form like mangiare, dormire, etc.) like in the examples below:
Io devo studiare.
I have to study.
Non posso uscire.
I can’t go out.
Voglio mangiare la pizza.
I want to eat pizza.
As you can see, the construction is the conjugated form of dovere, potere, or volere + verb in the present infinitive.
- Above examples: devo/posso/voglio + studiare/uscire/mangiare
How to form the passive voice with dovere, potere, and volere¿
Now, have a look at the example below:
I libri devono essere riportati in biblioteca.
Books have to be returned to the library.
As you can see, in passive voice constructions, dovere (as well as potere and volere) goes before the past infinitive of the main verb (essere + past participle of the main verb).
You’ll basically always see the verb essere in its infinitive form when it goes together with one of those three verbs in the passive voice.
Also, since we’re using the verb essere, the past participle agrees in gender and number with the subject.
So, the past participle will end in -o, -a, -i, or -e depending on whether the subject is masculine or feminine, and singular or plural as you will see in the examples.
How to use the passive voice with dovere?
The passive voice with the verb dovere is more common than with the other two verbs.
Dovere is used with passive voice in rules, orders, and ways of doing things, like in the examples below:
Le tasse devono essere pagate da tutti.
Taxes have to be paid by everyone.
La multa deve essere pagata il prima possibile.
The fine has to be paid as soon as possible.
I bambini devono essere portati a casa prima delle 8.
Children have to be taken home before 8.
Il grano deve essere piantato prima della primavera.
The wheat must be planted before spring.
La medicina deve essere presa alla stessa ora.
The medicine has to be taken at the same time.
I cittadini devono essere protetti dallo Stato.
Citizens have to be protected by the State.
How to use the passive voice with potere?
We use the passive voice with potere when we’re giving permission to do something, as you can see in the examples:
Il parcheggio può essere usato dai residenti.
The parking can be used by residents.
I diplomi possono essere ritirati in segreteria.
Diplomas can be collected at the administrative office.
Le proposte possono essere presentate prima delle 17.
Proposals can be presented before 5pm.
Il documento può essere tradotto soltanto da un traduttore ufficiale.
The document can only be translated by an official translator.
How to use the passive voice with volere?
We use the passive voice of volere when we talk about someone’s desire:
Non voglio essere portata in ospedale.
I don’t want to be taken to the hospital.
Non vogliono essere distubarti da nessuno.
They don’t want to be bothered by anyone.
Vogliamo essere trattate bene.
We want to be treated well.
Le vittime vogliono essere rispettate.
Victims want to be respected.
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