I'm slowing working my way through reflexive pronouns, and I understand that there are several uses of the pronoun 'se' :

  • Accidental / unplanned circumstances (se me cayó el vaso)
  • Passive Voice for general statements (se habla español)
  • Impersonal for when the doer of the action is deemphasized (se dice que es bueno)
  • Reciprocal (nos besamos)
  • Direct Object pronouns that change from lo,la,los,las to se ('la la envió' becomes 'se la envió')


My Venezuelan friend told me that the correct translation of "the game is almost over" is "casi se termina el partido".

I don't understand how the 'se' in this final sentence fits any of the criteria for using 'se.' How is this a reflexive sentence?

  • 1
    A more accurate translation could be "El partido está a punto de terminar" or "va a terminar". For me, "Casi se termina el partido" looks like an incomplete general statement.
    – Ra_
    Jun 21, 2016 at 13:42
  • In your last bullet point I guess you mean: "Indirect Object pronouns that change from le, les to se (le la envió' becomes 'se la envió'). Direct object pronouns never change to "se".
    – Yay
    Jun 21, 2016 at 15:37

2 Answers 2


Carlos Alejo is right, but I wanted to add a few grammatical explanations.

The verb terminar can be intransitive ("to finish"), or transitive ("to finish off sth", "to terminate sth"). The verb terminarse has the same meanings, plus the sense of "to run out". That means the two sentences below are equivalent:

El partido está a punto de terminar = El partido está a punto de terminarse.

because the sense of "finishing" is present in both terminar and terminarse. However, to say "we ran out of cookies" you can only say:

Las galletas se terminaron

and not ٭las galletas terminaron because the sense of "running out" is only present in terminarse.

The pronoun se in terminarse can be analysed in different ways: when it means "to finish" it can be considered an ethic dative; when it means "to run out of" it is a pronominal verb marker (marca de verbo pronominal). Ethic datives don't change the meaning of a verb and can be dropped (that's why the first two sentences are equivalent), while pronominal verbs markers can't be dropped. Sometimes, dropping a pronominal verb marker changes the meaning of a verb, as in acordar ("agree to") and acordarse ("remember"); and sometimes, dropping it leaves you with a verb that doesn't mean anything, as in enterarse ("find out"), whose non-pronominal form, enterar, just doesn't exist. [EDIT: Enterarse isn't a great example because the non-pronominal form, albeit less common, also exists and it means "to inform". Dignarse, arrepentirse or atenerse are better examples.]

I guess "ethic dative" and "pronominal verb marker" are two cases you have to add to your list.

  • Me acabo de enterar que enterar no existe. :-) @Yay no entendí esa parte.
    – DGaleano
    Jun 22, 2016 at 14:32
  • @DGaleano El verbo que estás usando en "me acabo de enterar" no es enterar sino enterarse. El pronombre puede ponerse al principio o al final de locuciones verbales como "acabar de". La versión sin el pronombre ("acabo de enterar que enterar no existe") no tiene mucho sentido.
    – Yay
    Jun 22, 2016 at 14:45
  • @Yay Gracias. Ya entendí. Lo que dices es que en ningún caso se usa enterar sin que antes (o después) haya un pronombre. Creo que en casos como "Acabo de enterar a Carlos de la situación" no hay pronombre pero el sujeto "Carlos" cumple la misma función por lo tanto lo que dices aún aplica porque podría escribirse como "Acabo de enterarlo de la situación".
    – DGaleano
    Jun 22, 2016 at 14:52
  • 1
    @DGaleano En ese caso "a Carlos" sería el objeto directo, igual que "informar a Carlos". La verdad tienes razón, no había caído en ese uso de "enterar". Supongo que "dignar(se)" o "arrepentir(se)" habrían sido mejores ejemplos.
    – Yay
    Jun 22, 2016 at 15:16

Some of the examples you give seem just like particular cases of a wider case: the pronominal verbs. You can read about them in the Gramática Española, from this page onwards.

As you already know, some verbs append the "se" suffix: these are the pronominal verbs, but this does not mean that the verb takes part in a reflexive sentence. If you want to know if a verb can be used as a pronominal verb, check the DRAE:


Del lat. termināre.

  1. intr. Dicho de una cosa: cesar (‖ interrumpirse o acabarse). U. t. c. prnl.

These letters at the end (U. t. c. prnl.) mean usado también como pronominal, "also used as a pronominal (verb)". This means that you can either say el partido está a punto de terminar or el partido está a punto de terminarse.

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