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My native language is Spanish and in my country we usually say "Yo me sé la tarea", but recently someone from another country asked me what the difference is, and I cannot explain it, so I've started to think that maybe this is an error and that it's just a common error we do here in latin america.

I'm confused, is this right or wrong?

Yo sé la tarea.

Yo me sé la tarea.

  • 2
    What is your country? – fedorqui Jul 15 at 5:30
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    "Yo me sé" sounds really wrong, in Argentina at least. – EmmanuelMess Jul 15 at 15:38
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We tend to use the reflexive form when we know something very well. So, if I say me sé el camino a la biblioteca, I would mean that I've learnt it and I can even repeat it by heart: you go straight, then turn the second to left, then... But, if I say sé el camino a la biblioteca, I mean that you don't need to tell me how to go, I can do it myself.

So, if I have learnt the lesson at school, I would say me sé la lección, because I have studied it and learnt it. Me sé la tarea, as Gustavson points out in the comments, would mean that I know well how to do it; if someone says sé la tarea, I might understand that that person knows what is the task at hand, but not necessarily that he or she knows how to do it.

  • I agree that with "saber" the pronoun usually means that you know it by heart, but I'm not sure that works with "tarea". Knowing one's homework by heart doesn't make much sense to me. With the other nouns (the way somewhere, a lesson, names, dates, etc.), it does work to mean that. – Gustavson Jul 15 at 21:06
  • I would never say me sé la tarea; for me, tarea is something you do, not something you learn (or know). But I guess in some places the word tarea may be used where I would say lección. – Gorpik Jul 16 at 7:15
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    I'd only say me sé la tarea to mean that I know very well how to do it. – Gustavson Jul 16 at 9:55
  • I see your point now. I'm tweaking my first sentence a bit. – Gorpik Jul 16 at 15:42
  • Well, my first sentence and a bit more :) – Gorpik Jul 16 at 15:46
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If Spanish is your native language, you are welcome to write in Spanish here if you wish.

Anyway, the only difference between:

(1) Yo sé la tarea.

and

(2) Yo me sé la tarea.

is that (2) sounds more colloquial because it includes what is called "dativo ético," that is, a pronoun that is merely used to indicate somebody's involvement in the action. It is sometimes accompanied by "todo/a": Yo me sé toda la tarea.

Here follow a couple of definitions from two reliable sources:

‘Dativo ético’, especialmente expresivo y coloquial. Se emplea sobre todo con el pronombre de 1ra. persona: Había ido el gato y se me lo ha comido; Vosotras no me salgáis de aquí.
Source: http://hispanoteca.eu/gram%C3%A1ticas/Gram%C3%A1tica%20espa%C3%B1ola/Dativos%20superfluos.htm

dativo ético

1. m. Gram. Pronombre dativo no requerido por el significado del verbo que se usa con intención afectiva para aludir a la persona que se ve afectada indirectamente por la acción verbal. El pronombre me es dativo ético en No se me asuste.
Source: https://dle.rae.es/srv/fetch?id=BsiLB13

  • Leyendo los enlaces que proporcionas me da la impresión de que en la frase original se trata del dativo simpatético en lugar del ético. No veo la intención afectiva hacia mí mismo en "Me sé la lección". Veo más una relación de posesión "Sé la lección, mi lección, la que tenía que aprenderme, me la sé" – RubioRic Jul 15 at 6:02
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    @RubioRic Puede que tengas razón, pero ese "sabérselas todas" es bien ético. En una oración como: "Me sé todos los trucos" no hay sentido de pertenencia (no son "mis trucos"), sino más bien una expresión de orgullo por parte del hablante, como vanagloriándose de la situación. Me parece que ése es el sentido de "Me sé la tarea". – Gustavson Jul 15 at 12:54
  • I softened the first sentence but of course please roll it back if it doesn't feel right. – aparente001 Jul 15 at 17:54
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    @aparente001 That's perfect, thank you. I just meant to say OP didn't need to take the trouble to write in English a question about Spanish. – Gustavson Jul 15 at 18:41
  • Good. I figured that's what you meant. – aparente001 Jul 15 at 20:58
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I draw different inferences from the two setences.

Yo sé la tarea

This means you know what the assigned task or homework is, such as read chapter 5 in the book.

Yo me sé la tarea

This means that you have learned the things the task or homework was intended to teach you.

FD: Spanish is not my native language.

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