The different uses of the pronoun “se” can be tricky to grasp, so let’s take a look at each of them:
It works as a marker for impersonal constructions, that is, sentences where the message can be applied to a large group of people (a rule, an advice, a law) or it doesn’t matter who is doing or saying something. SE only serves to indicate the impersonal nature of the statement.
- Se habla español. Spanish is spoken here.
- Se prohibe fumar. No smoking allowed.
“SE” sustituto de le/les:
The personal pronoun SE is used as a variant of LE, LES (indirect object) in the third person (el, ella, usted, ellos, ellas, ustedes) when followed by LO, LA, LOS, LAS as direct object:
- Ella envió el mensaje a sus colegas –> Ella se lo envió.
- She send the message to her colleagues. –> She send it to them.
“SE” pronombre reflexivo
In this case, SE is used when the object of the verb coincides with the subject of the sentence; the pronombre reflexivo can be found most frequently in verbs connected to our daily routine. Depending on the person used, it is replaced by me, te, nos, os.
- Ellos se despiertan todos los días a las 6 am. They wake up every day at 6 am.
- Ella se peina antes de ir a dormir. She brushes her hair before going to bed.
“SE” pronombre recíproco
It is used to indicate that two or more people are doing something to one another. Depending on the person used, it is replaced by me, te, nos, os.
- Ellos se escriben por mensaje de texto. They text each other.
- Ellas se conocieron en la universidad. They met each other in college.
"SE” morfema pronominal:
In this case, the pronoun is part of the verb’s lexical unit and it plays no individual syntactic role. Depending on the person used, it is replaced by me, te, nos, os.
- En 1957 la tomatina se convirtió en fiesta de manera oficial. The tomatina became an official celebration.
“SE” pasivo reflejo:
It is used to indicate that the subject is not the person carrying out the action, but rather the one affected by it. It is a variant of the passive voice.
- Se prohibió la fiesta por los ruidos excesivos. The party was banned due to excessive noise.