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Spanish Grammar A1 ⮟
Ser and Estar in Spanish for Beginners
Está and Hay in Spanish to Express Location
The Present Indicative in Spanish
The verb querer in Spanish: how to use it
The Verb Gustar in Spanish
Demonstratives in Spanish and Adverbs of Place
Possessive Adjectives in Spanish
The Present Continuous in Spanish: Estar + Gerund
The Gerund in Spanish: Form and Basic Uses
Expressions of Quantity in Spanish: Muy and Mucho
Spanish Grammar A2 ⮟
Present Perfect Indicative in Spanish
The Past Simple in Spanish
The Preterite Imperfect Indicative in Spanish
Indicative past tenses in Spanish
How to Express Future in Spanish
How to use por and para in Spanish
Possessive Pronouns in Spanish
Comparative Adjectives in Spanish
Ya in Spanish: Meaning and Usage
Subject Personal Pronouns in Spanish
Expressing Obligation in Spanish
Spanish Grammar B1 ⮟
The Pluperfect Indicative in Spanish
The Future Simple in Spanish
The Conditional Simple in Spanish
The imperative mood in Spanish
The present subjunctive in Spanish
Verbal Periphrasis in Spanish
General Rules of Accentuation in Spanish
Expressing Wishes with the Subjunctive in Spanish
The Use of Cuando with Indicative and Subjunctive
Position of Object Pronouns in Spanish
Spanish Grammar B2 ⮟
Advanced Uses of Conditional Simple
The Future Perfect in Spanish
The Conditional Perfect in Spanish
Present Perfect Subjunctive in Spanish
How do I use the past imperfect subjunctive?
The Pluperfect Subjunctive in Spanish
How to express probability in Spanish
Conditional Clauses in Spanish
Verbs of Change in Spanish
Reported Speech in Spanish
Spanish Grammar C1 ⮟
The passive Voice in Spanish
Adverbial Clauses of Manner in Spanish
Adverbial Clauses of Cause in Spanish
Clauses of Purpose in Spanish
Conditional Conjunctions in Spanish
Uses of the Pronoun SE with Syntactic Function
Uses of the Pronoun Se as a Verb Mark
The Indeterminate Feminine in Spanish

Uses of the Pronoun Se with Syntactic Function

The uses of the pronoun se can be a mystery to students of Spanish. It is one of the most used words in our language, but even native speakers do not understand its uses perfectly. In this article we will unravel this mystery.

Before we begin, it is necessary to make some clarifications. Some of the uses of the pronoun se are personal; this means that we will need to choose the right pronoun for each person. For this, we will use the list of reflexive pronouns: me, te, se, nos, os, se. However, other uses will only require the third person: se.

We will classify the uses of this pronoun in two groups: when it has a syntactic function and when it is a simple verbal mark. If the pronoun has a syntactic function, it will be the direct object or the indirect object in the sentence.

In this article we will learn about the first group. That is, the uses of the pronoun se in Spanish with syntactic function. If you want to learn the rest of the uses of this pronoun, you can do it here.

Don’t forget to check our free resources section, as it is constantly updated with very interesting grammatical contents.

As we have said before, the pronoun can have syntactic function; specifically direct and indirect object. When they fulfill this role in the sentence we can distinguish four uses: variant of the pronoun le, reflexive, reciprocal and dative of interest.



Variant of the Pronoun Le

We already know that the third person pronouns of direct object are lo, la, los, las and in leístas areas, also le and les. On the other hand, the indirect object pronouns are le and les. When we combine them with different persons, there is no problem. Let’s remember that we must use the indirect objects first and then, the direct ones:

Me lo regalaron / Te la contaron / nos las dio

However, when the two pronouns are both third person ones, the combination le lo or le la and their plural variants is not acceptable. Instead, we must replace the pronoun le with the pronoun se. Despite this change, the function of the pronoun se will still be as an indirect object.

Compré un libro a mi hermano > Le compré un libro > Se lo compré

Reflexive Use of the Pronoun Se

Another value of the pronoun se in Spanish is reflexive. When we use it this way, the speaker expresses that the subject of the sentence not only performs the action, but also receives it.

El niño se duchó y se cepilló los dientes.

In this example, the first se has the function of direct object (the child receives the action of the shower directly); on the other hand, the second use is indirect object (the teeth receive the action directly and the child indirectly).

Reciprocal Use

The reciprocal use works in a very similar way to the reflexive. The difference lies in the subject, which has to be multiple. In this case, the verbal action is performed by the subjects, one to the other; therefore, they also receive it.

Los jugadores se pasaron la pelota con precisión y al final del partido se abrazaron.

On this occasion, the first se is indirect, since the ball receives the action directly. On the other hand, in the second action, the pronoun is direct, since the players receive the hugs directly.

Dative of Interest or Ethical

This is one of the most complicated pronoun uses to understand. The word dative refers to one of the cases that existed in Latin and other languages that use declensions. The dative case served the function of indirect object, mainly.

The dative of interest points to the person indirectly affected by the verbal action, but with a high emotional charge. With it, we emphasize the special interest that the person has in the performance of the action. But the main feature is that we can eliminate it and the sentence will keep its meaning, although more attenuated.

El alumno se estudió el libro para el examen DELE. Su profesor espera que no se lo suspenda.

In the first sentence, we can eliminate the pronoun without problem, but with it, we emphasize that the student studied it because it was of great importance and interest to him. In the second example, the teacher shows a clear interest in the student not failing. However, we can also omit the pronoun se.

By the way, if you are interested in obtaining an official certificate in Spanish, remember that you can prepare for the DELE exam with our accredited teachers. And as a novelty, it is now also possible to take the SIELE exam online and from home.

And, of course, if you want to put into practice everything you have learned in this article about the uses of the pronoun se with syntactic function, reserve a class at

Infographic about the uses of the pronoun se with syntactic function in Spanish