On a car I saw a label: se vende

In such cases, how do I know precisely what this means:

1) it sells --> active voice


2) it's sold / it's being sold --> passive voice

Is it possible to answer this question?

In other words, what's "se" here: "it" or indicator of passive voice?

  • 2
    Why do you think "se" could mean it? Do you have an example of where it could definitively mean that? Generally, the only potential confusion with se is between impersonal and passive voice (se estudia X could mean one studies X, or X is studied), but that's not a problem here. Nov 6, 2018 at 6:20
  • @guifa how do I say "it" then in Spanish? literaly, the "it"
    – nylypej
    Nov 6, 2018 at 10:17
  • @guifa examples-wise -- I've seen and heard some, but I don't have them with me
    – nylypej
    Nov 6, 2018 at 10:19

1 Answer 1


I've found this interesting link that answers your question

The content is in Spanish. Let me try to translate a relevant part

a) oraciones de pasiva refleja. En estas oraciones, la forma se precede a un verbo en tercera persona del singular o del plural, según sea singular o plural el elemento nominal que aparece junto al verbo y que es su sujeto gramatical. Por tratarse de una forma de pasiva, esta construcción solo se da con verbos transitivos: Se vende casa de campo / Se venden casas de campo. Normalmente el sujeto de estas oraciones denota cosa, pero puede denotar también persona indeterminada: Se buscan actores para la película.

In English

a) Phrases in reflective passive voice. In these phrases, "se" precedes a verb in the third singular or plural form, depending on the nominal element that appears by the verb and that is the gramatical subject. Being a passive voice, this contruction only appears with transitive verbs: Se vende casa de campo / Se venden casas de campo [A country house is being sold / Country houses are being sold]. Usually the subject on these phrases denotes a thing, but it can denote an undetermined person too: Se buscan actores para la pelicula [Actors are being hired for the movie]

I don't know how this kind of phrases are named in English and I'm not sure of the last phrase translation, surely there is a more idiomatic way of saying it, but I hope this helps.

Notice that the example Se vende casa de campo matches your phrase Se vende. Se does not mean it, "se" is not the subject, as stated in the D.R.A.E text that I quoted. The subject of "Se vende" is the object being sold, the car in your case. The complete sentence is "Se vende (este coche, el que tiene pegado este cartel)".

So the answer to your question "what's "se" here: "it" or indicator of passive voice?" is:
According to the D.R.A.E is an indicator of passive voice, it's not the subject.

The phrase in English "it sells very well" can be translated to Spanish as "Se vende muy bien" or "Vende muy bien". Notice that in both cases the third person pronoun "it" is omitted.

  • that doesn't answer my question. I already know it and this is also implied in my question.
    – nylypej
    Nov 6, 2018 at 10:16
  • @nylypej Your question: "what's "se" here: "it" or indicator of passive voice?" My answer: According to the D.R.A.E, "se" is an indicator of passive voice. I don't get how the linked reference does not answer your question.
    – RubioRic
    Nov 6, 2018 at 10:33
  • ok, that answers my question. how do I say "it" in spanish?
    – nylypej
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:12
  • @nylypej What do you mean by "it"? Can you construct a complete sentence to provide context? In your example "Se vende", the object being sold is the car. We can question about what exactly is being sold with: ¿Qué es lo que se vende? What's the object being sold? Lo que se vende es el coche.
    – RubioRic
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:26
  • 1
    it sells is a correct phrase in terms of grammar and meaning
    – nylypej
    Nov 6, 2018 at 13:34

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