Impersonal vs passive “se”

Once again the Spanish language is offering us something confusing, this time I am talking about the word “se”. The two constructions, impersonal se and passive se look quite similar and it is not that easy to tell them apart. As usual, you should get prepared, take a pen, pencil, or whatever writing tool you want, a piece of paper or a notebook and let’s get started. Oh, not to forget, also arm yourself with optimism and you will surely succeed.

Impersonal se in Spanish

As its name states it, this kind of “se” does not refer to a specific person. It is actually used to refer to something that should be done, without specifying who should be in charge of it. This is what makes the statement impersonal.

We normally use impersonal expressions in order to say how things are usually done, whether we are referring to custom, rule, or general consensus. We also use impersonal expressions when we make general statements.

So now you know when we use impersonal expressions. However, there is still one question that has probably crossed your mind. How do we form “se ”constructions? Do not panic, because it is actually quite simple.

To from an impersonal se construction we use “se” + a verb in the third person singular. Below are a few examples that will help you have a better understanding of the concept.

  • Se habla español. ( = Spanish is spoken here.)
  • Se usa el reloj para saber la hora. ( = The clock is used to know the hour.)
  • No se permite hacer fotos aquí. ( = It is not permitted to take photos here.)
  • Se dice que antes vivía una bruja aquí. ( = It is said that before there lived a witch here.)
  • En Francia se come mucho queso. ( = In France they eat a lot of cheese.)

Passive se in Spanish

We usually use the passive voice in order to talk about an action that happened to an object, but without specifying who or what did that thing to it. Passive se constructions are formed using transitive verbs, which are those that require a direct object. Below are a few examples that will help you have a better understanding of the concept.

  • Se ha roto la puerta. ( = The door has been broken.)
  • Se te ha acabado el dinero. ( = Your money has run out.)
  • Se busca profesor de inglés. ( = English teacher wanted.)
  • Aquí se alquilan coches. ( = Cars are rented here.)
  • Se ha quemado la comida. ( = The food was burnt.)

I guess that by now you get the difference between impersonal and passive se. If not, you should read more. However, there are more problems that people face when learning Spanish, so you should definitely refresh my blog every few days and something new might appear. Sooner that you know it your Spanish skills will improve.

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