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‘Se’ in Spanish: uses and examples

‘Se’ in Spanish: uses and examples

Se in Spanish. The uses of se in Spanish are complicated, but with Enforex you can learn how to distinguish them. Discover the different uses of se in Spanish.

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The pronoun 'se' is one of the most variable pronouns in Spanish because it is used on many occasions and does not always have the same function as a pronoun. This is one of the reasons why learners of Spanish as a second language sometimes get confused and don't understand how the same pronoun can function in different contexts and with different functions.

So, if you are studying Spanish, in this article you will learn what are the most common uses of 'se' in Spanish, some examples with this pronoun and its equivalence in English. Learn Spanish in Spain with Enforex!

Different uses of 'se' in Spanish

To clarify all the doubts about the use of 'se' in Spanish we are going to divide it according to the functions it performs as a pronoun. Let's start with the pronouns 'se' that have a syntactic function:

Se' as a personal pronoun: in this first case, the pronoun 'se' replaces 'le' and 'les' in Spanish. In addition, it functions as an indirect complement in a sentence. For example:

Se' as a reflexive pronoun: here the subject performs an action that falls on itself. Without 'se' the verb cannot function, or it changes meaning. It admits the reinforcement a sí mismo' since the action falls on the subject. It is usually a direct complement but can be indirect when there is already a direct complement in the sentence. Examples:

Se' as a reciprocal pronoun: it is used in the same way as the previous one, but with the difference that, when the subject is plural, each individual of the subject performs the action of the verb towards the other(s). It functions as an indirect complement when there is a direct complement in the sentence. It can be added mutuamente or 'el uno al otro'. It also alternates with the remaining persons 'me', 'te', 'nos' and 'os'. Examples:

Example: se habla español

‘Se' without syntactic function

The pronoun 'se' can also occur without syntactic function. These are the existing ones:

Se' as a pronominal pronoun: this pronoun is part of the verb unit, so it is analyzed with it, which is why it always accompanies certain verbs such as ‘arrepentirse’, ‘acordarse’ or ‘atreverse’. It can also be an indicator of the action, intensifier of the verb or serve to differentiate the meaning of some verbs. For example:

Se' in passive voice: the subject does not produce the action but receives it and the verb is always in active voice. It is a pronoun exclusive of the 3rd person:

Impersonal 'Se': in impersonal sentences without subject, this pronoun is a verbal increment that indicates the reflexive and impersonal character of the sentence. Therefore, this impersonal 'se' only indicates the impersonal character of the sentence and is always in the 3rd person. Examples:

Se' that gives emphasis to the verb: it is a pronominal reinforcement that intensifies the person who performs the verbal action and the subject's interest in the expressed action. It alternates with the pronouns 'me', 'te', 'nos' and 'os'.

Example: se vende

Beware of confusing 'se' and 'sé'

Although the pronoun 'se' is widely used in Spanish, as you have seen, you should not confuse it with the conjugation of the verb ‘saber’: 'sé'. The main difference is the tilde: when you conjugate the verb ‘saber’ in the first person singular present tense, it has an accent: ‘yo sé’ (I know). While the pronoun is never written with a tilde, regardless of whether it is reciprocal, impersonal or in passive voice.

Furthermore, ‘sé’ with a tilde means ‘saber’, for example, yo sé (I know); or it can be the imperative form of the verb ‘ser’, in which case it would mean sé tú (you be), as an order.

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