Confused about pronomial/reflexive verbs
I saw a sentence on duolingo that says "el nino se come una manzana" (sorry about accents but I don't know how to type them). My teacher told me that reflexives are something that you do to yourself, so when I see this sentence, my mind reads "the boy eats himself an apple." However, duolingo told me that this sentence means "The boy eats an apple. Now, I am confused about the difference between "el nino se come una manzana" and "el nino come una manzana". What is the purpose of the se? How do I know when to think of it as a reflexive, or just ignore it? How do I know when to use se in a sentence? Do I have to use se in every sentence to make it sound more natural?
(I know that people have posted about this before but I still didn't get it after reading those answers)
Edit: Thank you for all of the responses!!! I understand it better now!
SpanishD!ct has a discussion of the difference between comer and comerse. I've put a link at the bottom. In the interest of scholarship (and not plagiarism) I'm going to cut and paste part of the discussion here.
"Comer" means to "eat": "voy a comer" - "I am going to eat"
"Comerse" means to "eat something up": "Pedro acaba de comerse un pollo entero" - "Pedro just ate a whole chicken"
"Voy a comerme esa manzana" - "I am going to eat that apple".
By contrast: "Voy a comer manzanas" - "I am going to eat apples".
Here is the link:
Firstly congratulations, if you are beginning to take on the rather difficult task of “se” it means that you are coming along with you Spanish. Firstly the verb is not reflexive, but rather pronominal, now pronominal verbs use reflexive pronouns but they have a number of functions:
Emphasis (this is what you are dealing with here)
Now deconstructing the sentence in tems of subject and objects will not help much here, and the descriptions of Actors would be better but not really needed, so take the following 2 English sentencs
I buy sweets every Tuesday
I buy sweets for myself every Tuesday
Now, when you use sentence 1 and when would you use sentence 2?
The use of for myself is allowing an added level of emphasis, so although the meaning may differ slightly, this is what the “se” is showing in the sentence.
Reflexive verbs are different of their "non-reflexive counterparts, like "ver" (to see) vs "verse" (see oneself). However, many pronominal verb are only used for emphasis. My favorite example is:
1) "Compré una casa" (I bought a house).
2) "Me compré una casa" (I bought a house).
1 and 2 are almost identical. In 1 it is possible you are not the owner, only the person who buys the house, but usually that is irrevelant, the important thing is "me" adds emphasis about you.
With "comer", "beber" and many other verbs it is the same, it is only emphatic and "more natural" but it doesn't happen anything if you don't use it. Be careful about true reflexive "comerse", like in "no me como las uñas" (I don't bite my nails) where "me" is mandatory because nails are a part of your body.
I am a Spanish learner and I had the same question as you. I think I understand the answer, I will,, try to explain it, as in your example. The verb "comer", "to eat", can be reflexive, or not, it's up to you how you phrase it, either way the message will be transmitted that the boy ate the Apple himself. So, both, el niño come la manzana and el niño se come la manzana, mean the same thing.
More: "se come la manzana" means, "he, she, it, formal you", eats the apple. "Se" doesn't say who the he, she,it is. The el niño, AT the front, is a little duplication, to show who the "se" part is.
Of course, el niño come la manzana, is correct also using the non reflexive comer. Its explicitly clear who ate the Apple.
Some verbs are almost always used as reflexive , by you as the speaker.
For ejemplo, cepillarse( I always brush my own teeth,hair), levantarse ( I get myself up), lavarse (I wish myself), vestirse (dress myself)
Others verbs may be used less often as reflexive . Poner, perder,caer, marcher. Can also be used non reflexive.
I may not be entirely correct , but, I think I'm pretty close,,,,any clarification, or better explanation welcomed....