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I came across this sentence from a book:

Hoy tenemos mucho estrés; es mejor tener calma que desesperarse.

Why isn't it desesperarnos? I think it should be -nos because I have also seen

No debemos desesperarnos.

Is there a subtle difference between [inf.] in "deber de [inf.]" and "es mejor [inf.] que [inf.]" that I do not know about, or is the book just wrong?

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Yes.

"Es mejor tener calma que preocuparse" is a general statement. The subject, preocuparse, is impersonal (not referring to any surviving person) and if we used nos instead, we'd be specifying someone.

Now, there's nothing wrong doing that. You can absolutely say es mejor tener calma que preocuparnos, but there you have a personal infinitive with a matching reflexive pronoun. Note that this structure may sound agrammatical to some Spanish speakers, but it is accepted. The most common –and universal— way to specify a subject is to use a subordinate clause: es mejor que tengamos calma que que nos preocupemos (the double que is not a typo — one is for the comparison, the other is the relative pronoun).

Compare that to no debemos preocuparnos. The infinitive there necessarily refers to us, it cannot be impersonal, and therefore must use nos. Consider too the proclitic form: no nos debemos preocupar, clearly, using se there doesn't work.

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  • Thank you! So the difference between "Es mejor [...] que [...]" and "No debemos [...]" is semantic. I imagine that even if I try to say "It is better for us to [...] than to [...]", the infinitive in [...] should still be impersonal, and -se should be used instead of -nos, right? (Can I put "Es mejor para nosotros [...] que [...]" or would that be weird?) – Tunococ Aug 11 '15 at 6:51

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