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One page I recently ran across discusses the concept of "no fault constructions" or verbs that use se in such a way to describe an action as taking place apart from the person who caused the action. For example:

  • Se me cayó.
  • Se me olvidó.
  • Se me perdió.

What verbs can be used this way (it seems like it's a relatively small list)? Is there a name for phrases like this? What role do the se and me play (i.e. what type of pronouns are they)?

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1 Answer 1

This is a kind of passive called "Pasiva refleja". "Pasiva refleja" is the passive voice most used in Spanish. RAE explains it here. The way of forming it

Se + < transitive verb > + < nominal element >

The verb will be always conjugated in 3rd person. If the nominal element is singular it will be 3rd person singular, but if that nominal element is plural it will be 3rd person plural.

for example:

Se vende esa casa

Se venden esas casas

Se venden casas

Se venden (you can even omit the nominal element if it's implied)

If the "nominal element" has a determinant or is a pronoun it can be placed before:

for example:

Esa casa se vende

Esas casas se venden

Casas se venden* (Incorrect)

The sentences you provided also have the accusative pronoun "me". This element is used to "accuse" somebody of being "guilty" of that. In that case it is used "me" because you're referring to "Yo". As it is an indirect pronoun for a person/people you have to use this:

me (1st person, singular)

te (2nd person, singular)

le (3rd person, singular)

nos (1st person, plural)

os (2nd person, plural)

les (3rd person, plural)

So you' have for example this sentences:

Se me cayó (el libro).

Se te olvidó (nuestro aniversario).

Se te perdió (la mochicla).

In case you want to express explicitely who you're accusing to, you have to express it after the verb linking it with the preposition "a". You have to use the acusative pronoun before the verb even if you use this:

Se le cayó.

Se le cayó a él. (it emphasizes more than the previous)

Se te cayó a ti.

Se le cayó a Juan.

Se les olvidó a todos ellos.

Se les olvidó a todos ellos el cumpleaños.

Se les olvidó el cumpleaños a todos ellos.

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