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What's the exact function of "mismo" in the following sentence?

For example:

Se llevo a cabo la ceremonia y el mismo presidente le entrego la medalla al soldado.

I'm a native speaker and I think it is to make an emphasis of the next word. I just want to get this clarified. Here "mismo" is not about the "same thing" because there is another usage where it could be used as this:

Laura y yo tenemos los mismos gustos.

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2 Answers 2

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The function of mismo in that type of sentence is described by the "Diccionario panhispánico de dudas" (DPHD) as follows:

2.- A menudo se emplea como mero refuerzo enfático y puede ir antepuesto o pospuesto al sustantivo, a veces en forma diminutiva (mismito) o superlativa (mismísimo): «Mis sorpresas comenzaron en la puerta misma del Club Alemán de la ciudad» (Edwards Anfitrión [Chile 1987]); «Me dejó con la espina clavada en el mismito centro de mi corazón» (LpzPáez Herlinda [Méx. 1993]); «Se atrevió a dar el paso de telefonearlo a la mismísima casa de su amante» (Vergés Cenizas [R. Dom. 1980]). Puede seguir a un pronombre personal: «Nosotros mismos nos condenamos al nacer» (Britton Siglo [Pan. 1995]); su empleo es obligatorio tras un pronombre tónico que, a su vez, refuerza al reflexivo átono correspondiente: «Muchas veces usted no se cuida a sí mismo» (Sophia Arte [EE. UU. 1996]); aquí no sería posible *usted no se cuida a sí; sin embargo, en ausencia del pronombre átono, no es obligatorio añadir el refuerzo mismo: «Gracias al instinto de supervivencia cada uno cuida de sí» (GmzPérez Abc [Esp. 1994]).

This means that its function is to emphasize the substantive it precedes or follows. In some cases it may be transformed to its diminutive or augmentative form ("mismito" or "mismísimo"):

En el discurso final fue el mismísimo presidente quien agradeció la ayuda prestada por todos sus colaboradores.

→  During the final speech was the very president who gave thanks to his collaborators for their help.

It is important to note that in the first example given by the DPHD above, the word mismo follows the substantive it modifies:

Mis sorpresas comenzaron en la puerta misma del Club Alemán de la ciudad

→  My surprises began at the very entrance of the city's German Club.

that could be said as well:

Mis sorpresas comenzaron en la mismísima puerta del Club Alemán de la ciudad.

Using mismo after the substantive it modifies is something (I think) that not always sounds good. I could recommend using it before the substantive when not really sure.

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In that sentence, "mismo" could be translated as "very" or "himself":

The ceremony was carried out and the very president handed the medal to the soldier.

or

The ceremony was carried out and the president himself handed the medal to the soldier.

As you guessed, it is an emphatic; it means that it was the president and no other person who did that.

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