ZThemes

Someone asked me how to spell sierra and I was like, “You mean sierra or cierra?”

Which makes perfect sense written down, but zero sense spoken. 

Shakespeare is infinitely easier in Spanish.

Julieta: ¡Oh, Romeo, Romeo! ¿Por qué eres tú, Romeo?

[lit. “Oh, Romeo, Romeo! Why are you (who you are), Romeo?”]

Nobody has time for “wherefore art thou” confusion in Spanish.

spanishskulduggery:

P.S. Guess who got sick after trudging through snow? Soy yo.

P.P.S. I’m going to wipe my nose on the shirt of the next person who asks me if I have ebola.

P.S. Guess who got sick after trudging through snow? Soy yo.

The worst part about impersonal and passive se is that if you don’t know they’re two different things, you can totally mistake one for the other.

If the verb is in a singular 3rd person, it’s kind of up in the air.

But if the verb ends up being plural like se prestan libros “books are borrowed” you know you’re dealing with passive se.

Because passive se is a lot like gustar… where the object determines plural or singular.

Tantas erratas que ya soy errática.

Any idea when to use the impersonal se in context?
Anonymous

spanishboone:

spanishskulduggery:

[copied from another ask]

Of course.

The impersonal se is something that’s very common. And it’s a bit confusing for English speakers because using an impersonal construction in English sounds overly formal.

What’s meant by “impersonal” is literally… “no person”; there’s no defined subject. No one is acting upon anything.

It’s different from a reflexive, in that many times a reflexive is an action done by AND to the subject… so me lavo is “I wash myself” where the “I” is both the agent and the object; the doer and the one who is receiving the action.

But an impersonal se construction is a sentence that has no real subject…

They often start in English with “you” or “they” or “one” which can be a bit strange. But in English it’s when you say “they” but you’re not actually talking about a specific group of people… you just mean “they” as in some unnamed people.

It’s very common for proverbs.

¿Cómo se dice…? - How do you say…?

¿Cómo se pronuncia…? - How do you pronounce…?

Sabes lo que se suele decir… - You know what they say…

¿Cómo se va a la playa? - How do you get to the beach? / How does one get to the beach?

Se dice que… - It is said that… / They say that…

No se sabe. - It isn’t known.

Se habla español en España. - Spanish is spoken in Spain. / They speak Spanish in Spain.

Se habla francés en Francia. - French is spoken in France. / They speak French in France.

Se habla inglés en Inglaterra. - English is spoken in England. / They speak English in England.

Se habla ruso en Rusia. - Russian is spoken in Russia. / They speak Russian in Russia.

Se habla francés, alemán, romanche, e italiano en Suiza. - They speak French, German, Romansh, and Italian in Switzerland.

That’s the general gist of impersonal se. There’s no clearly defined subject in Spanish. It’s always how “one” does something or “one” says something.

In English we don’t say, “How does one get there?” because that sounds a bit too formal. English is more likely to use “you” or “they” which can be a bit confusing if you approach Spanish like an English-speaker:

¿Cómo se pronuncia “alhaja”? - How is alhaja pronounced?

[Meaning “How does one pronounce the word alhaja in the standard language?” …Or in other words, “This word seems confusing to me and I don’t know how to pronounce it, what is the correct way to pronounce it?”]

¿Cómo pronuncias “alhaja”? - How do YOU pronounce alhaja?

[Meaning something along the lines of, “In what way do YOU PERSONALLY pronounce this word, regardless of how it might be said by others”?]

¿Cómo pronuncian “alhaja”? - How do THEY pronounce alhaja?

[Same as above really, you’ve identified a subject which means you’re looking at a specific group of people and asking how they pronounce a word. Which is a totally valid sentence in and of itself, especially if you’re in a discussion about how different countries have different accents.]

Here are some more links about impersonal se and also passive se which is kind of connected:

EDIT: spanishboone did a post on the passive se which is also very helpful

EDIT 2: The difference between the passive se and the impersonal se is very blurry.

In general, the passive se refers to things that a mysterious or unidentified 3rd person does… such as “one” or “they” or when English speakers use “you” when they mean an example.

And passive se refers to the results of actions that don’t have a subject…

Se comió el pastel. - The cake was eaten.

Se vendió el abrigo. - The coat was sold.

So… en Alemania se habla alemán “they speak German in Germany” is considered impersonal because it’s a mysterious, ambiguous, vague “they”. 

What I mean by blurry is that generally they’re indistinguishable except in meaning…

Se habla español (en ___) = They speak Spanish (in ___) [Impersonal; no direct subject but it is implied that many people or a group do the thing]

Se habla español aquí. = Spanish is spoken here. [Passive; “Spanish” as a language/concept/object is being acted upon. It is the thing being done with no subject named.]

Except that passive se is sometimes plural, since you’re discussing the fate of “objects” or concepts.

Se comieron las galletas. = The cookies were eaten.

Se vendieron las camisas. = The shirts were sold.

In response to what you asked spanishskulduggery about the difference between impersonal de and passive se, I’d say, in my opinion, that the impersonal se is more of an “ambiguous they” or “ambiguous you”. You’re not really sure who “they” or “you” is but you know it refers to a group of people. The passive se to me is when something has had something happen to it. Ex: “se dice que” - it is said that. It’s not saying who or what did the action. All it states is that the action was done. I think it takes a trained mind and practice to full differentiate it. I feel that the passive se and impersonal se translated translated can’t always be interchanged even though they look the same in Spanish. I think that we English speakers have two different forms for the same thing which in turn makes it harder for us to distinguish.

So blurry I totally metí la pata trying to tell them apart. Lordy.

You’re right. As per usual, I have an inability to see my own typos and will fix this now. 

Someone asked me what the Spanish word for “turtle” was and I just barely stopped myself from saying tortilla.

Luckily tortuga is close enough to cover well.

P.S. Hard shell taco. That is all.

There are so many animal-related nouns/adjectives in Spanish. So many.

Any idea when to use the impersonal se in context?
Anonymous

[copied from another ask]

Of course.

The impersonal se is something that’s very common. And it’s a bit confusing for English speakers because using an impersonal construction in English sounds overly formal.

What’s meant by “impersonal” is literally… “no person”; there’s no defined subject. No one is acting upon anything.

It’s different from a reflexive, in that many times a reflexive is an action done by AND to the subject… so me lavo is “I wash myself” where the “I” is both the agent and the object; the doer and the one who is receiving the action.

But an impersonal se construction is a sentence that has no real subject…

They often start in English with “you” or “they” or “one” which can be a bit strange. But in English it’s when you say “they” but you’re not actually talking about a specific group of people… you just mean “they” as in some unnamed people.

It’s very common for proverbs.

¿Cómo se dice…? - How do you say…?

¿Cómo se pronuncia…? - How do you pronounce…?

Sabes lo que se suele decir… - You know what they say…

¿Cómo se va a la playa? - How do you get to the beach? / How does one get to the beach?

Se dice que… - It is said that… / They say that…

No se sabe. - It isn’t known.

Se habla español en España. - Spanish is spoken in Spain. / They speak Spanish in Spain.

Se habla francés en Francia. - French is spoken in France. / They speak French in France.

Se habla inglés en Inglaterra. - English is spoken in England. / They speak English in England.

Se habla ruso en Rusia. - Russian is spoken in Russia. / They speak Russian in Russia.

Se habla francés, alemán, romanche, e italiano en Suiza. - They speak French, German, Romansh, and Italian in Switzerland.

That’s the general gist of impersonal se. There’s no clearly defined subject in Spanish. It’s always how “one” does something or “one” says something.

In English we don’t say, “How does one get there?” because that sounds a bit too formal. English is more likely to use “you” or “they” which can be a bit confusing if you approach Spanish like an English-speaker:

¿Cómo se pronuncia “alhaja”? - How is alhaja pronounced?

[Meaning “How does one pronounce the word alhaja in the standard language?” …Or in other words, “This word seems confusing to me and I don’t know how to pronounce it, what is the correct way to pronounce it?”]

¿Cómo pronuncias “alhaja”? - How do YOU pronounce alhaja?

[Meaning something along the lines of, “In what way do YOU PERSONALLY pronounce this word, regardless of how it might be said by others”?]

¿Cómo pronuncian “alhaja”? - How do THEY pronounce alhaja?

[Same as above really, you’ve identified a subject which means you’re looking at a specific group of people and asking how they pronounce a word. Which is a totally valid sentence in and of itself, especially if you’re in a discussion about how different countries have different accents.]

Here are some more links about impersonal se and also passive se which is kind of connected:

EDIT: spanishboone did a post on the passive se which is also very helpful

EDIT 2: The difference between the passive se and the impersonal se is very blurry.

In general, the impersonal se refers to things that a mysterious or unidentified 3rd person does… such as “one” or “they” or when English speakers use “you” when they mean an example.

And passive se refers to the results of actions that don’t have a subject…

Se comió el pastel. - The cake was eaten.

Se vendió el abrigo. - The coat was sold.

So… en Alemania se habla alemán “they speak German in Germany” is considered impersonal because it’s a mysterious, ambiguous, vague “they”. 

What I mean by blurry is that generally they’re indistinguishable except in meaning…

Se habla español (en ___) = They speak Spanish (in ___) [Impersonal; no direct subject but it is implied that many people or a group do the thing]

Se habla español aquí. = Spanish is spoken here. [Passive; “Spanish” as a language/concept/object is being acted upon. It is the thing being done with no subject named.]

Except that passive se is sometimes plural, since you’re discussing the fate of “objects” or concepts.

Se comieron las galletas. = The cookies were eaten.

Se vendieron las camisas. = The shirts were sold.