I have these two sentences from my book, one is using le and another one is using se:

Esa camiseta no le queda bien a Luisa.

Clara nunca se pinta los labios ni los ojos.

I believe both se and le in these sentences refer to the person. Then, why sometimes le and sometimes se is used? Any help?

  • Se is like on-oneself or to-oneself. Le is like on-himself (her..) to-himself (her..) ... the t-shirt needs a link to "suits Luisa". they are called encliticos or pronombres encliticos i dont know how much you care about this but you can read more (in spanish) here wikilengua.org/index.php/Pronombre_encl%C3%ADtico
    – Rostol
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 3:28
  • What is interesting here, is that 'queda' is the verb being 'carried out' by the camiseta, but 'pinta' is being 'carried out' by Clara. So the 'camiseta' is not very well doing the fitting 'on-to Her (Luisa)', and Clara is never doing the painting 'on-to herself'.
    – timhc22
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 17:51

3 Answers 3


In the first sentence the subject of the sentence is the blouse and Luisa is the object, so "her" has to be le.

The blouse does not suit (her) Luisa. [OR The blouse does not fit Luisa.]

In the second sentence Clara is the subject, so the pronoun is se.

Clara never uses lipstick or eye make-up. Literally: She never applies makeup to herself on the lips or eyes.

If you think in this context of se as being herself and le as being her you will get a clue as to what is going on.

  • 2
    To add to mdewey's good reply, for reflexive actions involving parts of the body Spanish usually uses the personal pronoun (corresponding to the subject) and the definite article before the part of the body, while English uses the possessive: Se tiñe el pelo vs. She dyes her hair. / Me lavo la cara vs. I wash my face. / Te cortas las uñas vs. You clip your fingernails.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 12:58
  • 1
    I like this If you think in this context of se as being herself and le as being her you will get a clue as to what is going on., thank you!
    – renakre
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 9:19
  • @renakre or 'To her'/'To herself'
    – timhc22
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 17:48

Mainly because se is a reflexive pronoun. It is used when the object of a sentence is the same as the subject. Note, it is reflexive in this case. (Se can be many other things, including a reciprocal pronoun, as in "las niñas se peinan," where you have the ambiguity of not knowing if the pronoun is reflexive or reciprocal. Do the girls do their own hair or each other's?")

Le is a third person pronoun used as indirect object (never direct object -- this would actually be leísmo).

Thus in the second sentence, you use se because it refers to the person doing the action (she does the action to herself).

Clara nunca se pinta los labios ni los ojos [a sí misma].

In the first sentence, you use le because you use it as a pronoun for the third person. Comparing with first and second person pronouns:

La camisa mo me queda bien a mi (1st person)

La camisa no te queda bien a ti (2nd person)

La camisa no le queda bien a ella (3rd person)

And you could write a sentence with both "se" and "le":

Laura nunca se ponía [a sí misma] la camiseta negra que le quedaba pequeña. | Laura never wore the black tank top which was too small for her.

  • 2
    Thank you very much for the answer and examples! I wish I could mark both answers as correct!
    – renakre
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 13:55

Un pronombre tiene diferentes formas cuando usado como un sujeto, objeto directo, objeto indirecto, reflexivo, y después de una proposición como "con" o "para". Tengo una colección de formularios.

Primera persona:

  • Sujeto: yo|nosotros,notrotras
  • Objeto directo: me|nos
  • Objeto indirecto: me|nos
  • Reflexivo: me|nos
  • Proposición: mí|nosotros,nosotras

Segunda persona informal:

  • Sujeto: tú|vosotros,vosotras
  • Objeto directo: te|os
  • Objeto indirecto: te|os
  • Reflexivo: te|os
  • Proposición: ti|vosotros,vosotras

Tercera persona:

  • Sujeto: él, ello|ellos, ella|ellas
  • Objeto directo: lo|los, la|las, le|les (usado en España cuando se refiere a persona)
  • Objeto indirecto: le|les, se (usado antes de lo|los, la|las, le, ejemplo: se la compré)
  • Reflexivo: se|se (singular y plural son iguales)
  • Proposición: él, ello|ellos, ella|ellas, sí (entre sí, consigo)

Segunda persona formal:

  • Sujeto: usted|ustedes
  • Objeto directo: igual que Tercera persona
  • Objeto indirecto: igual que Tercera persona
  • Reflexivo: igual que Tercera persona
  • Proposición: usted|ustedes

Espero que los formularios sea completos y correctos. Si sí, la vida será sencilla, simplemente usemos los pronombres según los formularios.

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