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I have few questions:

  1. In the example "Te veo los ojos", in English that is "I see your eyes". te=your, right? If I change the sentence to "Se veo los ojos", then it will become "I see his/her/its/your eyes"? Are these two sentences missing the subjects?

  2. "Veo tus ojos" & "Te veo los ojos" both have the same meaning, only grammatically different? And if there is any tone difference? I mean, during what condition do the spanish people say each of them?

  3. Is "te" a dative pronoun here? If I do not want to use the pronoun, how can I say it in Spanish?

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5 Answers 5

In Spanish you will often need to use the reflexive pronoun when referring to yourself vs referring to others. The verb in your case is

verse - to see oneself (note this is ver plus the reflexive)

"A reflexive pronoun is used when the subject of the sentence is both the agent of and the recipient of the action of the verb."

The comparative examples in English would be:

I see your eyes.

I see myself in your eyes.

If I heard your sentence I would guess you might be trying to say, "I see your eyes", but the use of the reflexive here is confusing the issue. As stated earlier only if the subject and object are the same do you use reflexive.

Following the examples above your sentences would be:

Veo tus ojos. (non-reflexive)

Me veo en tus ojos. (reflexive)

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1  
no, sorry. that is not correct, the correct way to say what you want to say would be: me veo en tus ojos. Wichi means I see myself in your eyes. Se te veo en tus ojos has no sense whatsoever. –  user2880 Apr 26 at 4:09
    
I agree it makes no sense. I have learned quite a bit of Spanish since this was written. I will correct it (or remove) as necessary. Thanks. –  McArthey Apr 28 at 19:58

In this case "Te" refers to an action that I'm doing on you. For example "Te quiero" would mean "I love you". Here "quiero" is an instance of the verb "love" and "Te" is the action "quiero" that I'm applying on you.

I'm a native spanish speaker but with very little knowledge about grammatical structures. However I hope this helps you understand a little more.

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Welcome to the site! But this answer is incorrect. "Te" is not an action--"Te" is a personal pronoun. In your example "quiero" is the action. –  Flimzy Apr 26 at 19:53

Se veo los ojos

Is something so incorrect grammar-wise, that you would never say it.

Using SE they way you have is incorrect. You have used it as an indirect complement and not only that, you have used as a substitute for le/les in a time when you need not substitute.

It would be more grammatically correct to say

Le veo los ojos

translating to

I see his/her eyes.

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I don't think Se veo los ojos is grammatically correct, as few others pointed out. It should be either se ven, or me veo.

In this case the eyes would be both the agent and receiver of the action. If you want to say I see his eyes just use Veo sus ojos (eyes are now only receiver of the action).

Consider this example:

¿Como se ven los ojos cuando una persona no puede dormir?
¿Como se ven los ojos de un animal ciego?
¿Por qué se ven los ojos rojos en las fotos?

which translates roughly to:

What do the eyes of a person who cannot sleep look like?
What do the eyes of a blind animal look like?
Why do the eyes appear red (are seen as red) on fotos?

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'te' in this example means 'you', not 'your'. Example:

Te veo. → I see you.

So a literal, word-for-word translation of "Te veo los ojos" would be I see you the eyes.

You are correct that "Veo tus ojos" has the same meaning. I believe the reason that "Te veo los ojos" comes from a cultural aversion* to referring specifically to body parts. Referring to "your eyes" or "my eyes" or "his eyes" is considered a little less polite than referring to "the eyes."

The way to avoid using 'te' is just as you said, to say "Veo tus ojos." This will probably be understood by everyone, but might seem less polite, particularly in some contexts.

Another common example I have seen of referring to body parts this way would be signs in restaurant restrooms instructing employees to "Lave las manos" (Although I have also seen "Lave sus manos").

*I'm sure someone who's more familiar with the cultures of various Spanish-speaking countries can speak more directly to this phenomenon--or it might make a good question of its own.

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"Te veo los ojos" seems to be complicate in grammar. I still feel confused. –  Cadenza Jul 13 '12 at 17:36
    
Is "te" the indirect object here (the recipient of the action)? If so, wouldn't the his/her version be "le veo los ojos"? If this is true, it feels like "I see the eyes and you're the one who's receiving my look". –  wbyoung Nov 22 '13 at 20:08

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