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I see the words véase and véanse somewhat frequently.

I understand they are used like this:

See page 5

Véase página 5

And

See pages 5 and 6

Véanse páginas 5 y 6

I'm assuming the pronouns are appended to the verb as one would with an imperative (for instance, "llámame") but I don't get how the pronouns figure in here and why they are used.

I'm also assuming the words used are in some way related to the words found in structures like "se ve" ("is seen") and "se vean" ("are seen").

What exactly is happening in the words véase and véanse?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In Spanish, a verb with "se" can be used as a more natural form of passive, called "pasiva refleja" (reflexed passive?).

That is the case here "véase" is a form of "verse", that is the "pasiva refleja" equivalent to "ser visto".

According to the conjugation, it is the third person, singular of the present tense of subjuntive. As you probably know the present tense of subjuntive is used sometimes as imperative. In this case it works as a third person imperative (the real imperative only has the second person).

To sum up, "véase" is a reflexed passive third person imperative of the verb "ver".

Maybe it could be translated more literaly as "to be seen", but I don't think it work too well.

In Spanish, this kind of passive-imperative was somewhat common when giving instructions, particularly when they are written. "Véase", "nótese", "obsérvese"...

I think it is to avoid the direct imperative, that may be seen as unpolite. But now it may be seen as old fashioned, and in modern writings it is repaced with the more informal plural first of the present of indicative. For example in cooking recipes:

Córtese la carne... Caliéntese el agua...

Cortamos la carne... Calentamos el agua...

But this will not work with "véase". You cannot say "vemos página 3"!

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What you have here is the imperative of the (pronomial)reflexive form of ver -> verse. According to spanishdict.com, it's a form used (among other occassions) in texts :

http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/ver

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It is like saying, "for more information go to page 5" It is a neutral form found in books and written stuff.

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