Object Pronouns 5: "se"
I only passed this lesson because I'd taken it so many times I had all the answers memorised. I still have no idea what "se" is for or what the logic of it is.
I only know how it is used it in the 7 or 8 specific examples given in the lesson, so I would never know use it outside of the "se" lesson. There is no explanation in the lesson introduction. There is a very helpful chart for all the other object pronouns, but not even a mention of what is (I think) the most complicated one. That really should be fixed.
In the meantime, does anybody have a useful resource for mastering this pesky blighter?
Firstly, "se" is a reflexive pronoun. Secondly, it can function as the passive voice. (So can ser + past participle, but that's another lesson.)
As for the first function of "se," you see verb infinitives with -se endings. Lavarse, cepillarse, ducharse, and so on and so forth. Sometimes verbs can be both reflexive and non-reflexive depending on meaning. We say that anything that is done to oneself is reflexive. This occurs in English. He hits himself. She bathes herself. Spanish takes it a little further. Ella se cepilla los dientes. She brushes her teeth. If we want to translate it a little more literally, we could say, "She brushes her own teeth." Anyway, "se" is the third person reflexive pronoun.
As for its second function, Spanish has a somewhat unique feature where "se" functions as a way to create the passive voice. The first example that I was fed as a student of Spanish was, "Aquí se venden las flores" or "Las flores se venden aquí." Flowers are sold here. Now, if we drop the "se" we get, "Las flores venden aquí," which means, "Flowers sell." Doesn't make much sense in English, nor does it in Spanish. Now, this way to create the passive voice is very, very, very common and is very important when learning Spanish.
Here is a good introduction: http://spanish.about.com/od/pronouns/a/introduction_se.htm
"Se" can seem confusing at first, but, eventually, it just becomes more and more natural.
Thanks for that description, it helps clear up some things for me. But you lost me at this part:
> Now, if we drop the "se" we get, "Las flores venden aquí," which means, "Flowers sell." Doesn't make much sense in English, nor does it in Spanish.
I don't get how it becomes "Flowers sell", where does the aqui/here go? Would it not be "the flowers sell here"?
Yeah. The main message of that example was that removing the "se" changes the entire meaning of the sentence (i.e., from passive to active). Sorry about that little mistake; I didn't catch it during my proofreading.
It's more simple than one might think.
When we are dealing with a reflexive verb, the passive voice (usually) doesn't make sense. In the common example of reciprocal situations, using the passive voice wouldn't necessarily make sense.
Ella se cepilla los dientes. The passive voice can't even be constructed here. Él se ducha. He is showering. Sure, it makes SOME sense to say, "He is showered," but that's a very abstract extrapolation.
The rule of thumb is that reflexive verbs don't have (necessarily) a direct or indirect object. The direct object is technically the subject. In many cases, you'll see that connection. Plus many verbs only make sense as reflexive verbs.
Personally, I've never run into a situation where I thought, "Is this a reflexive verb? Or is this the impersonal 'se?'" I'm sure there are ambiguous cases, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.