Saturday, March 23, 2019

Gramática: "Se" made simple ... or simpler

Professor Jason YouTube
I've long maintained that the hardest words in Spanish are the two letter ones ... de, me, te, and most of all "se." Today I was determined to crack the "se" code and discovered Professor Jason on YouTube.

Of course, to make life more interesting, sometimes it has an accent and sometimes it doesn't.
This particular exploration is about the particle "se," not the verb saber which uses for I know ... or the imperative form of ser meaning "Be!" (One might think they ran out of words somewhere along the line.)

#1 Reflexive, third-person pronoun

It's good to remember that it is the intended meaning and the pronoun that makes a verb reflexive ... the actual conjugation remains the same. Reflexive verbs reflect back to the subject agent.

In this example, levantar which normally means raise or lift, when reflexive it means to stand up. Me levanto - I stand up. Se levanta - he or she stands up; se levantan - they stand up.

If the infinitive or gerund is used, the se is attached ... John quiere levantarse - John wants to stand up. Or John está levantándose, but here this could also be John está se levantando.

There is also a "reciprocal reflexive" ... Juan y Ana se besan. This example helped me understand this ... Mis hermanas se escribían ... my sisters used to write to each other. Without the "se," it would be ... my sisters used to write. Not necessarily to each other.

#2 Double object pronouns

This sounds mind-boggling, but it's not. Sometimes you need to say things like: give it to me. "It" might be an apple or a baseball bat but you're using the pronoun "it" to replace whatever it is. Because you're giving it to me, me is an indirect pronoun. So, you need two types of pronouns.

In order to explain this part of the "se" journey, we're going to get some help from Senor Jordan who reminds us about Direct Object Pronouns:

Haz clic aquí por el vídeo

Sometimes you want to add an indirect pronoun to indicate who you're doing something to or for.

And, sometimes you want two pronouns as when you want say "give it to me." Here's the visual of Senor Jordan's explanation:

 "Se?" This is where it goes off the rails a bit. Where did "se" come from? Well, it turns out that when you put the direct object pronoun with the indirect object pronoun, it changes in third person. Here's the chart:

 Here's Senor Jordan's wrap-up. If you are still confused, watch his full video ... maybe more than once.

#3 Passive voice

Before you get excited, you see this in action all the time ...  se vende, se renta. When I first came to Mexico, I thought that said: for sale. It means that but actually says that it is being sold by an unnamed agent. It doesn't say "I am selling this" which would be Estoy vendiendo esto., a great grammar consultant, says:

  • The passive voice is generally used to talk about a person or object without making mention of whoever or whatever is performing the action on that person or object.

  • Passive se constructions are one way of using the passive voice in Spanish. Only transitive verbs (verbs that require a direct object) are used in passive se constructions.
The passive se is commonly seen in want ads and other types of public announcements.

#4 Impersonal subject in active voice sentence. 
Examples of impersonal, active usages: people, one, you, they ... actors who are unspecified. In Spanish, "se" plays this role.

SpanishDict again says: Impersonal se constructions (oraciones impersonales ) are used to make general observations about what people do.
with examples:
Se debe trabajar mucho para tener éxito.
One should work hard to gain success.
Se vive muy bien en este pueblo.
You live well in this village./Life is good in this village.
Se busca a los testigos del crimén.
They're looking for witnesses to the crime.

#5 Complicated and probably for another day. Here's the note but it made my head spin. For instance, the first example: Se nos acabó la gasolina, basically means they're out of gasoline, but in an indirect way as if the gasoline sort of left on its own. más tarde. I think this will have to wait for awhile.

The next time you see "se," somewhere, have more respect for this powerful little word.

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