The uses of SE in Spanish A fun look at why there are so many?

The multiple uses of SE in Spanish.keyboard-scale

I recall when I first started to hear Spanish spoken in the factory in which I worked in Aguascalientes, Mexico and I was vaguely aware of the SE word being used. However, I was so far removed from the meaning of what was being said that I didn’t worry too much about it.

Then, having suddenly fallen in love with the language (that took about a week of hearing the lovely lilting accent from central Mexico) I began to study in earnest.

Se in Spanish was everywhere.

Suddenly, it seemed as though SE was on every study book page I looked. I saw it attached to verbs, on its own, with accents, surrounded by other small words which meant nothing to me either.

At that time I didn’t have a teacher and could only ask the people I worked with to help me clear up any doubts. BIG MISTAKE.

Always ask someone who knows.

Let me give you some examples of the questions I asked and the random, incorrect answers I was given by people who weren’t teachers of their language:

The difference between Había comido and He comido.

I had heard many people using ‘Había’ rather than ‘He’ and I knew that ‘He’ meant ‘I have’. I had no idea, however, what ‘Había’ meant and so I asked a Mexican friend. Her answer was… “Son iguales. No hay diferencia.” = They are the same.There’s no difference….WRONG.  (Había = Had.)

Espero que nos veamos.

I was very comfortable with using the expression, ‘Nos vemos’ = See you later. (We’ll see one another.)  One day, I wrote an email to a Mexican friend arranging to have a coffee. I finished the email with “Espero que nos vemos.” = I hope to see you.

I asked one of my work colleagues to review the email before I sent it. She read it and said, “Ah, it should be…’Espero que nos veamos.’

Perplexed, I asked her why.  After a little pause she said: “Because you have to.” And then went about her business. I recall that moment like it was yesterday because I was so absolutely frustrated. I wanted to know why. Why, because?

Now I know that ‘espero que’ is a trigger for the subjunctive and so ‘veamos’ is the subjuntive form of ‘vemos’. At the time, however, my colleague’s reply just made matters worse.

Hablamos in present and Hablamos in the past.

I had discovered that the past tense of we speak =hablamos was, in fact, the same as it was in present tense. I was a little confused as to how their meaning could be kept clear. I decided that they probably had different pronunciations and went off to ask someone. I went into the human resources office and asked the three people who worked there.

I explained about the present and past being the same and asked if they had a different pronunciation.  They said that they did! From the conversation I understood that the present tense was pronounced like this: hÁblamos and the past like this: hablÁmos.

Happy that I had gotten to the bottom of the matter, I went off to practice and spent the next year mispronouncing my present tense ‘we’ conjugations. (They are both pronounced identically.)

Of course, the people in the office knew how to pronounce correctly, they simply didn’t know how to explain it, nor did they have the slightest idea about what I was talking about.

Back to the uses of SE in Spanish

This brings us back round to the massive confusion I had about the uses of SE in Spanish. Finally, I think I have them sorted and this video is designed to help you, too, in a humorous way. I hope it helps.  For a more structured look at the uses of SE in Spanish, you can also take a look at our previous video on the subject.

Click here to see the blog. 

Saludos, Gordon 🙂

Video for This Spanish Lesson

Audio for This Spanish Lesson