Translation:But this had never been tried before.
(And estado). If you're thinking this could have been phrased in a whole lot of ways in English and Spanish, you're right. For one thing, tratar means many very different things. So how were you going to use sido? To see examples of the work of other translators (not that they're necessarily perfect), go to http://www.linguee.com/ , check English-Spanish, and enter sido tratado
Se's many uses are confusing, but I don't believe 'se' is reflexive here as 'this' is not trying itself. As vandermonde and rogduo have pointed out, 'se' gives this sentence a passive voice in that the do-er of the action (in this case, the 'trying') is not mentioned in the sentence. Instead, in passive voice the subject (in this case, 'esto') is acted upon by someone unnamed. Active voice: But they had never tried this before. Passive voice: But this had never been tried before.
Addressed or discussed are perfectly acceptable in translations of this sentence. While "tratar" does mean "to try" in Spanish, at least here in Spain it is equally common to use "intentar" for "try" and to say "tratar(se)" when you want to say "discuss" or "address". Ex.: "De eso se trata" or "En la reunión esta mañana tratamos el tema del nuevo presupuesto."
If the sentence didn't include the "se", would it be acceptable to translate it as "But he has never tried this before"? If not, what would the Spanish equivalent be? Would "Pero nunca antes había tratado de esto" be better?
Would "Pero nunca antes se había tratado de esto" be passive again?
Sorry about all the questions.
For "he has never tried this before", I would probably say: Pero él nunca ha intentado esto antes. Note has / had = ha / había. If you say "Pero nunca antes había tratado de esto", I would wonder "What had never been about this before?" because tratar means a lot of different things, including to be about. I'm not a native speaker. I find tratar confusing so I use intentar for to try. I'm not the only one confused. See: http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/3377/tratar-vs.-intentar
Its been a long time since Ive had a sentence with se that confused me. I find myself wanting to respond as
Pero esto nunca había sido tratado de antes
but I can see by others who understand that my answer appears wrong. I did find these reference examples but maybe they are leading me astray.
Me dijo que todo había sido aprobado
You said everything had been approved. OR
Lo que tenemos en mente no ha sido intentado antes. (present imperfect)
What we have in mind has never been tried before.
So where am I going wrong?? I thought tratado always had to be followed by de in case you wonder. I feel 'this/esto' is the subject pronoun but somehow others see it as the object of the 'tried' or action. I think I missed a lesson a long the way. I saw one comment on this page that is perhaps getting me to think differently but I'm still confused. The statement was by SFJuan "Active voice: But they had never tried this before. Passive voice: But this had never been tried before." Is this it in a nutshell and if so what role is 'this' in the sentence. Does it not refer to a noun mentioned previously giving us the context of what this is?
Then I found this example suggesting two ways to construct this sentence-
The two most common ways to conjugate the Spanish passive tense are: the passive se (se publicó el libro) and the passive with ser (el libro fue publicado). Below you will find the passive voice conjugated in third person indicative:
TENSE EXAMPLES TRANSLATION Present es publicado / se publica is published
Imperfect era publicado / se publicaba it used to be published
Preterite Fue publicado / se publicó it was published
Future será publicado / se publicará it will be published
Conditional sería publicado / se publicaría it would be published
Perfect ha sido publicado / se ha publicado it has been published
Pluperfect había sido publicado / se había publicado it had been published
Future Perfect habrá sido publicado / se habrá publicado it will have been published
Conditional Perfect habría sido publicado / se habría publicado it would have been published
When using the passive ser, keep in mind that the participle must agree in number and gender with the subject of ser.
Also, there exists a passive continuous form of ser (estar siendo publicado / está publicandose, etc.), but it is not very common.
Not to worry. Usage trumps rules. If a phrase is commonly used to mean one thing, then that's that. But a Google search reveals this particular phrase has also been used for "had never been more obvious" and "had never been explained before". The "had never been tried before" just comes back to this thread. So I suggest this particular exercise does not warrant just a whole lot of thought.
Hola rmcgwn, I think two things might help you. One is clarification on English active vs passive voice. And the other is the many uses of 'se' in Spanish.
Here is a link on active/passive voice: http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/activepassive.html.
In active voice, the subject performs the action of the verb, and the direct object receives the action. In passive voice, the subject receives the verb action (acts like the direct object) and the "doer" of the action is ommited (or introduced with the prepositional phrase 'by subject'). Active voice: 'The boy lost the money', the subject, 'The boy', is who does the 'losing', and the direct object, 'the money', what was 'lost'. Passive voice: 'The money was lost', the subject, 'The money', is acting as direct object and is what was lost, and person or thing that did the 'losing' is ommited.
'Se' has MANY uses in Spanish: http://spanish.about.com/od/pronouns/a/introduction_se.htm.
One of the uses is as the equivalent of the English passive voice. By using 'se', you can indicate some sort of action without indicating who performed the action, just as in English passive voice. Active voice: 'El niño perdió el dinero' (The boy lost the money), and passive voice, 'Se perdió el dinero' (The money was lost). The literal translation would be 'The money lost itself', but it really is a way of omitting the person or thing that did the action and the correct English translation is passive voice.
SFJuan- I really appreciate your explanation. I think I understand the uses of se or perhaps I should qualify that by saying yes I understand the rules but with this particular sentence I don't see a passive statement. [To me, "this" is a demonstrative pronoun taking the place of a noun & therefore serves as the subject despite not knowing what "this" is without knowing the context] From an earlier post I made you can see that I did find that my response turns out not to be wrong. Nevertheless I want to understand for future use how to use "se había" for "had been". I have gotten a little closer when I saw a verb conjugation chart for example
So perhaps we could say that what we may have here is the use of a reflexive verb and that it may not be a passive statement. Now I wonder if "se habia" is in fact ever used without a reflexive verb following because the following verb is what triggers se?? Not the sentence itself?
Also, you asked what's the role of 'this' in: 'But they had never tried this before' (active voice), and 'But this had never been tried before' (passive voice).
In Active voice, 'this' is the direct object; it is what had never been tried. The subject is 'they'.
In Passive voice, 'this' is the subject, but it acting as the direct object receiving the action of 'tried'; it is still what had never been tried. The true subject, 'they', has been omitted.