Passive voice with “potere”, “volere”, and “dovere”: Italian grammar lesson 232

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Summary

Dive into the nuances of the Italian passive voice! Master the art of shifting focus in a sentence and learn how to use the verbs dovere, potere, and volere to express necessity, ability, and desire in a passive construction.

  • Passive Voice Basics: Swap the spotlight in your Italian sentences! Use the passive voice to emphasize the action’s recipient rather than the doer. 🎭
  • Modal Verbs: Get to grips with dovere (must), potere (can), and volere (want). They’re your go-to for expressing obligation, permission, and wishes in the passive voice. ✨
  • Structure Matters: Nail the formula: conjugate dovere, potere, or volere + essere in the infinitive + past participle. Remember, agreement in gender and number is key! 📐
  • Passive with Dovere: Lay down the law or set some rules by using dovere in the passive voice. It’s perfect for stating what must be done by whom. 🚦
  • Passive with Potere: Hand out permissions like a boss! Use potere in the passive voice to tell what can be done and by whom. 🎟️
  • Passive with Volere: Express desires or preferences in a more sophisticated way by using volere in the passive voice. It’s all about what someone wants to be done. 💭
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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.

And

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.

In this post, we’re going to focus on the passive voice with dovere,potere, and volere.

Let’s get started!

Passive voice dovere potere volere

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

Passive voice dovere volere potere

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).

Here’s the structure: Conjugated form of dovere, potere, or volere + verb in the past infinitive (essere + past participle) + da. Like the above example: devono + essere + riportati.

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.

The passive voice dovere potere volere

How to use the passive voice with dovere?

The passive voice with the verb dovere is more common than with the other two verbs.

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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.

The passive voice dovere volere potere

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.

Volere potere dovere passive voice

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.

How to do the passive of volere potere dovere

If you’re interested, you can read about the Passive voice with the verb venire and Passive voice with the verb andare.

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FAQs on Passive voice with “potere”, “volere”, and “dovere”: Italian grammar lesson 232

How to form the Passive voice with potere, dovere, and volere?

Conjugated Like this: form of dovere/potere/volere + verb in the past infinitive (essere + past participle) + (da)

Dovere is used with Passive voice in...

Rules, orders, and ways of doing things.

Potere is used with Passive voice when...

We’re giving permission to do something

Volere is used with Passive voice when..

We talk about someone’s desire.

Italian word of the day
cappuccino
Example
Vorrei un cappuccino, per favore.
I’d like a cappuccino, please.
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2 Responses

  1. It is said that the Passive is used much less often in Italian than in English. Instead ‘one uses’ (passive) the Si Impersonale.

    I went back to find that Si Impersonale was covered in Lesson 117.

    But, I thought I read that Si Impersonale can sound stilted in spoken language ie…. One can see that this is obviously incorrect sounds as though the subject is being talked down to. One can leave their baggage at the front desk sounds pretentious.

    Can you comment on anything regarding when to use Passive vs Si Imperonale. ie…. is one used more in writing than in spoken Italian, etc…

    1. Ciao @donaldbell09@gmail.com!

      The impersonal si is used in Italian to talk in a detached way about events or situations regarding an indefinite and non-specific subject such as people or everyone. It’s more common to find it in written texts.

      It is only used in the third-person singular or plural with essere as an auxiliary.

      We listed 5 ways in which you can use the impersonal si:

      1. With transitive verbs simple tenses. Example: Al ristorante si berrà vino e si mangerà pasta.

      2. With intransitive verbs simple tenses. Examples: D’estate si va al mare.

      3. With reflexive verbs simple tenses. If there is the reflexive pronoun it is used ci si. Example:In vacanza, ci si alza sempre tardi.

      4. With compound tenses. There are a lot of specifications depending on the type of verb.

      5. With another pronoun referring to the same verb. The structure is pronoun + si + verb. Example: Si è andati in vacanza a Madrid l’anno scorso e ci si è andati per celebrare un anniversario.

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