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Primero mi pregunta en español:

¿Cómo se especifica/destaca género con verbos reflexivos en la tercera persona?

Details in English:

I recently came upon a sentence that went something like

She wonders why he doesn't get up earlier.

If I write

Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta más temprano.

I have no way of knowing, without additional context, whether or not "se levanta" refers to "she," "he," or "usted," right? So, how do I make that absolutely clear? And how would I say "She wonders why she (herself) doesn't get up earlier?" Below is how I think you do this, but something tells me that I'm off on some or all of this and I haven't had much luck finding a solid answer to this anywhere, so here goes:

She wonders why he doesn't get up earlier.
Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta él más temprano.

She wonders why she (another girl/woman) doesn't get up earlier.
Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta ella más temprano.

She wonders why she (herself) doesn't get up earlier.
Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta ella misma más temprano.

I realize I'm adding complexity to all of this by using an example in which subject-verb order is reversed in one of the clauses, and if that makes a difference in the placement of the pronoun of clarification, please address that in your answer.

By the way, I have visited the following:

Reflexive and non-reflexive third person

Where do you specify gender in a sentence?

but neither really addressed what has caused this latest confusion for me about the Spanish language. I suppose that one of my biggest areas of confusion is where I can place a pronoun to clarify, specify, or emphasize the gender of the subject of a reflexive verb. Sources I often visit to test various phrasing constructs indicate to me that doing something like this is extremely rare, but even so, I would imagine there will be times when it is necessary and I would like to do it correctly so as not to add more confusion to what I'm attempting to express.

Can anyone help me with this aspect of the Spanish language? Thanks in advance for your help.

Detalles en español:

Hace poco me encontré con una oración que decía algo como

She wonders why he doesn't get up earlier?

Si escribo:

Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta más temprano.

No tengo forma de saber, sin más contexto, si «se levanta» refiere a «ella», «él», o «usted», ¿verdad? Así que, ¿cómo digo eso con toda claridad? Y, ¿cómo deciría, “She wonders why she (herself) doesn’t get up earlier?” A continuación son ejemplos de cómo creo que se hace esto, pero algo me dice que no estoy completamente correcta sobre algunos o todos y no he tenido mucha suerte encontrando una respuesta sólida a ésta en ninguna parte, así que aquí va:

Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta él más temprano.
She wonders why he doesn't get up earlier.

Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta ella más temprano.
She wonders why she (another girl/woman) doesn't get up earlier.

Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta ella misma más temprano.
She wonders why she (herself) doesn't get up earlier.

Me doy cuenta que añado complejidad a todo esto utilizando un ejemplo en que el orden de sujeto-verbo se invierte en una de las cláusulas, y si eso hace una diferencia en la colocación del pronombre de clarificación, por favor diríjase en su respuesta.

Por cierto, he visitado las siguientes páginas:

Reflexive and non-reflexive third person

Where do you specify gender in a sentence?

pero ninguno de ellos abordado verdaderamente lo que me ha causado esta última confusión sobre la lengua española. Una de mis áreas de confusíon es dónde colocar un pronombre para clarificar, especificar, o destacar el género del sujeto de un verbo reflexivo. Fuentes que visito para probar diversos constructos de frase me indican que hacer algo así es extremadamente raro, pero aún así, imaginaría que habrá veces cuando es necesario y quiero hacerlo correctamente para no añadir más confusión a lo que intento expresar.

¿Alguien me puede ayudar con este aspecto de la lengua española?

Como siempre, gracias de antemano por tu ayuda.

2

The answer to your first question is amazingly simple. If leaving out the subject pronoun leaves some ambiguity, then don't leave it out. The worst that can happen when you use a pronoun that could possibly have been omitted is that it might sound a bit pedantic, but that woulnd't be a big deal.

Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta él más temprano.

You're right, in general it's often nice to have the subject come after the verb, but in this case, it would sound better to move "él" in front of the verb as Diego did, because when it comes after the verb it might lead you to interpret it as an article -- you might think a noun is coming next.

Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta ella más temprano.

Without some context, this still sounds ambiguous, do you see why? In this case you would need a name instead of a pronoun, e.g. Lisa se pregunta por qué no se levanta Marisol más temprano. (Or Marisol could go after the verb, I think.) However, in a context where it's obvious whom you're talking about, you might be able to get away with the two pronouns or even an omitted second pronoun.

Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta ella misma más temprano.

Better: Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta más temprano. In absence of a name or a negative pronoun, you can assume the listener will interpret the verb levantarse as happening to one and only (selfsame) person as the previous verb. So you don't need the "ella misma" here and it is unnecessary repetition.

If I missed something please point out which parts I neglected to address.

  • You did an excellent job of addressing some of the finer points of my confusion on this. Especially useful was your indirect/subtle point that in a real life situation, one would probably know the names of the people involved. – Lisa Beck Aug 14 '17 at 19:55
  • When you pointed out the ambiguity of Ella se pregunta por qué no se levanta ella más temprano, I immediately saw what you were saying. When I first decided to used that as an example, I was solely focused on clearing up ambiguity between an "ella" and an "él" and had not been thinking that there could be more than one "ella" referred to. Your inclusion of what one can assume in a sentence like this was especially helpful. – Lisa Beck Aug 14 '17 at 19:56
  • I am tempted to give Diego the green checkmark because he so promptly, professionally, and politely answered my question and you even reference his answer at various points, but since you have far fewer reputation points and really helped dial up my knowledge of the Spanish language with your answer, I'm going to give it to you. Well done. – Lisa Beck Aug 14 '17 at 19:57
  • @LisaBeck Glad I could help and keep up the good asking and learning. – aparente001 Aug 14 '17 at 22:59
5

El pronombre reflexivo (en cualquier persona y número) carece de género (a diferencia de los que ocurre con alguna de las personas en los pronombres personales o posesivos). De hecho la partícula se se presta todavía a más confusión, porque en ocasiones no puedes saber si es reflexivo o recíproco, como en el clásico ejemplo de

Las niñas se peinan Cada una a sí misma (reflexivo) o la una a la otra (recíproco)

La única manera que tienes de desambiguar en esos caso es, como indicas, añadir el pronombre o un sustantivo. El contexto podría darte también información extra para desambiguar.

Ella se pregunta por qué él no se levanta más temprano.

Ella se pregunta por qué Juan/su marido no se levanta más temprano.

Su compañera de piso siempre duerme hasta mediodía. Ella se pregunta por qué (su compañera) no se levanta más temprano.

Viendo que ha dormido hasta tarde otra vez, y perdido la mayor parte del día, ella se pregunta por qué (ella misma) no se levanta ella más temprano.

  • Gracias por tu respuesta, Diego. Noté que pusiste el pronombre antes del verbo en tus ejemplos. ¿Suena eso más natural a ti? El ejemplo que usé vino de una sección de un libro de gramática en el orden de las palabras ... más especificamente el orden de palabras en preguntas (directas o indirectas). Un poquito de la sección puede verse aquí. – Lisa Beck Aug 12 '17 at 19:15
  • @LisaBeck - En el ejemplo del libro hay una negación, y eso cambia el ritmo. – aparente001 Aug 14 '17 at 2:52
0

I am the original poster of the question and the comments that I have written in this thread as well as the awarding of the green checkmark still stand, but I have recently come upon some information, that, had I known earlier, I might not have even needed to post the question in the first place. What I am about to include below might help those who are just starting their study of the Spanish language.

If you need to avoid ambiguity when using "su," "sus," or "suyo," use

"de" + subject pronoun

For example:

su casa OR casa suya

can mean "his house," "her house," "its house," "their house," or "your house." Without additional context, the phrase is ambiguous. If you want to avoid this ambiguity, you could write instead:

la casa de él
la casa de ella
la casa de ellos
la casa de usted/ustedes
la casa de Vd./Vds.

or something similar.

Those are the basics with regard to reducing the ambiguity that arises from third person possessives. When I initially wrote the question, I think I knew at least that much. I just wasn't sure where best to place a subject pronoun when needed for clarification. The other answers in this thread should help you with that, especially with regard to compound sentences in which two different subjects are present. Reflexive verbs, on the other hand, differ somewhat from a simple possessive construction. Specifically:

The possessive adjective is also replaced by the definite article when the possessive relationship is already established by a pronoun.

—From Spanish Grammar in Context, Chapter 24: Possessives, p. 173. Print.

Examples:

Alejandro se lava la cara. (Alexander washes his face.)
Alejandra se lava la cara. (Alexandra washes her face.)

Adding a construction for clarification would be unnecessary in the examples above and I assume that doing so would sound very odd to a native Spanish speaker. And as far as any ambiguity here, there shouldn't be any because if you wanted to say instead:

"Alexander washes her face,"

the verb "wash" is no longer reflexive. It is now transitive and would be written:

"Alexandro lava su cara."

Or, for more clarity

"Alexandro lava la cara de ella."

Most of the time, you probably won't need to clarify with the "de + subject pronoun" construct, but if you do, it is typically placed after a noun of possession ("casa" and "cara" in the examples above).

If, on the other hand, you need to clarify the ambiguity that arises in a compound sentence with more than one subject, the construct used for nouns of possession no longer applies and though you could use a subject pronoun for clarification, in these instances it is probably best to use something more specific (e.g., a person's name). Typically, Spanish grammar books will advise that the subject come after the verb in such clauses (to avoid ending a sentence with a verb, which appears to be somewhat frowned upon ... at least in formal Spanish writing), but it appears that there's some flexibility in this area (according to comments written in this thread). However, this may be more acceptable in daily speech rather than formal or academic writing.

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