THE USES OF ‘SE’ IN SPANISH
In Spanish, the word ‘SE’ can be assumed to be the most commonly used Pronoun. This is because it is used in many different situations. These situations are: -
- With a Reflexive Infinitive
- As a Reflexive Pronoun
- As an equivalent to the Passive Voice
- As a reciprocal Pronoun
- As an Impersonal Pronoun
- As a replacement for Le or Les
WITH A REFLEXIVE INFINITIVE
‘SE’ is used with Reflexive Infinitives, that is to say, the base form of verbs that show actions done unto oneself. The ‘se’ at the end shows us that these verbs are Reflexive.
Examples: levantarse - to get (oneself) up
ducharse - to shower (onself)
AS A REFLEXIVE PRONOUN
‘SE’ also has to be used with the third person of a Reflexive Verb when it is conjugated.
Examples: Ustedes se ayudan. - You help yourselves.
Ella se despierta. - She wakes herself up.
AS AN EQUIVALENT TO THE PASSIVE VOICE
In English, the Passive Voice refers to a sentence which shows an action NOT being done by the subject of the sentence. In order to form this in Spanish, the pronoun ‘SE’ is used to avoid complication.
Examples: Se prohibe fumar. - Smoking is forbidden.
Se construyeron las casas. - The houses were built.
AS A RECIPROCAL PRONOUN
As the name suggests, ‘SE’ also is used to show reciprocity, which is roughly translated to ‘each other’ in English.
Examples: Ellas se confunden. - They confuse each other.
Los hombres se saluden. - The men greet each other.
AS AN IMPERSONAL PRONOUN
When ‘SE’ is used in an Impersonal situation, this simply means that people in general, that is, no specific person, performs the action indicated by the verb.
N.B.: - An Impersonal situation can only be found with a SINGULAR verb!
Examples: Se dice que hay fantasmas aquí. - They say that there are ghosts here.
No se debe comer por la noche. - One should not eat at night.
AS A REPLACEMENT FOR ‘LE’ OR ‘LES’
When two Object Pronouns beginning with ‘L’ come into contact, ‘SE’ is used to replace the Indirect Object Pronoun in order to avoid any pronunciation or confusion problems.
Examples: Ellos se los dan. - They give them to him.
Based on the above reasons, explain how ‘SE’ is used in the following sentences.
Ella se lo lleva. – She carries it to him.
Nosotros nos ayudamos. – We help each other.
Ustedes se cepillan los dientes. – You all brush your teeth.
Se puede comprar billetes aquí. – One can buy tickets here.
Se tiene que estudiar para tener éxito. – One has to study to be successful.
Los hombres se peinan las barbas. – The men shave their beards.
Mis hermanos se los enviaron. – My brothers sent them to her.
Las ventanas se abren. – The windows are opened.
Ella se divierte siempre. – She always enjoys herself.
Se sirve cena. – Dinner is served.