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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Last week we started to get our hands dirty with the (in)famous pronoun SE. Now that I've opened this can of worms, it's only natural that we continue to tackle the intricacies of this important pronoun.

SE Used as a Clitic

We had talked about some of the functions (we can also call them "uses") of this pronoun. Something we didn't talk about last week is how the pronoun SE can be used as a clitic. In Spanish this is called enclítica and the definition according to the dictionary of the Real Academia is this: "Said of a particle o a part of an oration that is joined with the preceding word, forming together with it one word. For example: in the Spanish language there are enclitic particles which are the pronouns placed at the end of a verb."

However, it is very important for our students remember this point, we only substitute the pronoun LE/LES of the Direct Object (LO(s)/LA(S)) in three instances.

These three instances are:

1) When the verb, together with the pronouns, is an affirmative command.

                Example: Marta no puede faltar a la cita con el dentista. Por favor recuérdaSElo .

2) It can also appear joined with the verb when the verb is in the infinitive.

                Example: Dile a tu hija que tiene que cortarSE el pelo.

                *Since the infinitive is rarely alone, it is common for it to form part of a periphrasis. In this case, the    pronoun can also appear in its normal position: Dile a tu hija que SE tiene que cortar el pelo.

3) When a verb is in gerund form. But, like the infinitive, a gerund rarely appears alone and commonly forms part of a periphrasis. In this instance we have two options for the placement of SE.

                Example: Espera un segundito, que está imprimiéndoSE el documento que quiero que leas.

                                OR

                                Espera un segundito, que SE está imprimiendo el documento que quiero que leas.

Once we have reviewed these three uses, we will also refresh with our students the previous uses of SE that we have already gone over:  the use of the medium voice and the expression of unintentionality.

As we continue in our search for the different uses of SE we will find that SE appears frequently as an impersonal subject (Aquí SE come muy bien), this usage is also related to the impersonal passive voice (SE venden pisos). Let's try and remember, since we're talking about it, that this form of the passive voice (the impersonal) is without a doubt the most used in Spanish of all the passive voice options. Let's not forget that in languages like English or German, passive voice structures with agent, are more commonly utilized than in Castilian Spanish.

Finally, one of the uses of SE that we shouldn't forget is that it can alter the meaning of some verbs when they are joined together with this pronoun. These verbs can be classified into three groups:

1) Those that have a minor effect on the significance of the verb such as emphasizing the action

                Example: Después de cenar SE tomó tres copas de helado.

                --The pronoun isn't necessary but it serves to emphasize and intensify the importance of eating ice cream.

2) This group can be characterized by verbs that we can call pronoun verbs. These are verbs that change their meaning when a pronoun is present (Ir/IrSE, Acordar/AcordarSE…)

                Example: Los jueces acordaron liberar al prisionero ante la falta de evidencias.

                               (The judges agreed to free the prisoner…)

                               Los jueces SE acordaron de lo que habían manifestado en su última sentencia.

                               (The judges remembered what they had expressed...)

3) This last group contains those verbs that can be considered pronoun verbs per se. In other words, these are verbs that without the placement of the pronoun, lack any significance in Spanish

                Example: Enrique es un tiquismiquis, siempre SE queja de todo.

                --The verb quejar without the pronoun doesn't exist in Spanish (although there is aquejar or in pronoun form, but never alone).

Well, now that we've looked at the different uSEs of SE we only need to consider how we are going to get our students to remember all of this. Our goal (and what we should strive towards) is making our students understand clearly and sufficiently the uSEs of SE without having to remember all of theSE nomenclatures and grammatical definitions. We'll leave that for the next post…

Hasta la próxima.

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