Passive and impersonal voice in Estonian
In most languages, there are usually two voices: active and passive. However, in Estonian the voices are called personal and impersonal voice.
What makes impersonal voice different from passive is that the main purpose is to make the subject impersonal (instead of emphasizing the object).
Present tense of the impersonal voice
The present impersonal verb form is one of the four basic forms of an Estonian verb, which means that it can't be constructed from any other stems but has to be memorized.
It uses the suffixes -akse, -dakse, -takse.
- Enne sööki pestakse käsi. --- Before eating hands are washed.
- Maal tuntakse üksteist. --- In the countryside people know each other.
- Sõnaraamatutes selgitatakse sõnade tähendusi. --- The meaning of the words is explained in the dictionaries.
The negative present impersonal is made with the negation word ei + present passive without the -kse ending.
|one speaks||räägitakse||one does not speak||ei räägita|
|it is allowed||lubatakse||it is not allowed||ei lubata|
|it is said||öeldakse||it is not said||ei öelda|
Past tense of the impersonal voice
The simple past is formed by replacing the ending of the -tud/-dud participle with -ti/-di.
|English||-tud/-dud Participle||Past Passive|
The negative of the simple past consists of the negation word ei + -tud/-dud participle.
|English||Negative Past Passive|
|one did not read||ei loetud|
|one did not wait||ei oodatud|
|one did not beg||ei palutud|
- Peol tantsiti hilisõhtuni. --- People danced until late in the evening at the party.
- Meid ei oodatud pulma. --- We were not expected at the wedding.
- Vanasti sõideti hobustega. --- In olden days people rode horses.
The past perfect and the pluperfect are formed with the auxiliary verb on/oli (the 3rd person singular of olema 'to be') + -tud/-dud participle.
The negative form is constructed with ei ole/ei olnud + -tud/-dud participle.
|Past Perfect||one has begged||on palutud||one has not begged||ei ole palutud|
|one has laughed||on naerdud||one has not laughed||ei ole naerdud|
|Pluperfect||one had begged||oli palutud||one had not begged||ei olnud palutud|
|one had laughed||oli naerdud||one had not laughed||ei olnud naerdud|
Passive voice in Estonian
In addition to the impersonal, the passive voice also exists in Estonian. While the impersonal sentences express the action with leaving the subject in the background, the passive is used to rather express the state that the object has reached as a result of the action. It can also be used as adjective that describes what has happened to a noun.
The passive form is always the -tud/-dud principle of the verb.
Comparsion passive voice and impersonal voice
In the following table you can see the comparison of impersonal and passive sentences in Estonian:
|Present||One is closing the doors||Uksed suletakse||The doors are closed||Uksed on suletud|
|Past Simple||One closed the doors||Uksed suleti||The doors were closed||Uksed olid suletud|
|Past Perfect||One has closed the doors||Uksed on suletud||The doors have been closed||Uksed on olnud suletud|
|Pluperfect||One had closed the doors||Uksed olid suletud||The doors had been closed||Uksed olid olnud suletud|
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