‘SE’ is one of those tricky words in Spanish that can drive non-native speakers nuts. Let’s take a look at the main uses of ‘se’ with examples from the Nuestra Cultura’s article “La Tomatina de Buñol”.
1. “SE” impersonal:
It works as a marker for impersonal statements when we don’t want to mention the subject of the action. Used in guidelines, instructions, advice, etc.
- Se aconseja llevar zapatillas cerradas, gafas de bucear y, por supuesto, ropa vieja.
- Make sure to bring sneakers, goggles, and –of course- old clothes.
2. “SE” sustituto de le/les (also known as “falso se” / “fake se”):
If the indirect object pronoun le/les is followed by the direct object pronoun lo/la/los/las, then we must replace le/les for “se”.
- El hombre se los lanzó a los revoltosos jóvenes.
- The man threw it to the rambunctious young men.
3. “SE” pronombre reflexivo:
In this case, SE substitutes a noun or noun phrase which coincides with the subject of the sentence. It is often followed by “a sí mismo”.
- El día de la batalla campal los participantes se levantan muy temprano.
- The day of the battle the participants get up very early.
4. “SE” pronombre recíproco:
It is used to indicate that two or more people are doing something to one another.
- Los participantes se tiran tomates (entre ellos).
- The participants throw tomatoes at each other.
5. “SE” morfema pronominal:
In this case, the pronoun is part of the verb’s lexical unit and it plays no individual syntactic role. Depending on the person used, it is replaced by me, te, nos, os.
- Hasta que en 1957 se convirtió en fiesta de manera oficial.
- Until 1957 when it became an official celebration.
6. “SE” pasivo reflejo:
It is used to indicate that the subject is not the person carrying out the action, but rather the one affected by it. It is a variant of the passive voice.
- Se prohibió la Tomatina de Buñol en varias ocasiones.
- The Buñol Tomatina was banned on several occasions.
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