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Is there any difference between the two sentences below?

  • No puedo hacer que el bebé se duerma.
  • El bebé no me duerme.
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  • It would be helpful if you gave us the source of the sentences. Did you read them somewhere? Are they part of a quiz? Did you make them up, for practice? // "No puedo hacer que el bebé se duerma" is correct but unauthentic. It would more naturally be "No puedo dormir al bebé," meaning "I can't get the baby to sleep" or "He won't go down." Of the two sentences, the speaker of the second one sounds more frustrated. Dec 1 '19 at 7:06
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There's a lot of nuances in both sentences. Let's see them:

No puedo hacer que el bebé se duerma.

Here you are implying that you cannot put the baby to sleep. Maybe he/she is still quite awake and wanting to play, and your efforts are futile because the baby still has a lot of energy to burn. The verb used is dormirse, the pronominal form of dormir.

El bebé no me duerme.

This is a really interesting one. That me is what we call a dativo ético. In that kind of sentences what you are implying is that "the baby cannot sleep and that worries me". If I am told that I may understand that the baby actually has a serious problem and cannot sleep well at night, and that worries the parent. A similar, quite used sentence is "mi niño no me come" (my kid is not eating properly and that worries me).

So the two sentences are different to me, but if you say:

El bebé no se me duerme.

Then both sentences are quite the same.

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  • Isn't dormirse a pronominal verb here instead of reflexive? "dormir" is not something which can be done on oneself (and not on anyone in general). Nov 28 '19 at 15:43
  • @AlanEvangelista right you are, sir.
    – Charlie
    Nov 28 '19 at 16:02
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The sentence

No puedo hacer que el bebé se duerma

implies that I have tried to put the baby to sleep and you have not succeeded.

The sentence

El bebé no me duerme

is a case of dativo ético, in which the pronoun me emphasizes that the fact that the baby does not sleep affects me in some way. It does not necessarily imply that I have actively tried to put him to sleep, though one would assume it (if it affects me, one would expect I have tried).

The difference is quite small, and both sentences would be used in very similar, if not equal, contexts. The second sentence looks less natural and more colloquial to me, but this might be location-dependent (north of Spain).

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  • So the second sentence could be said by a mother with a nanny which puts the baby to sleep, the first one not. Right? Nov 28 '19 at 12:44
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    @AlanEvangelista Exactly, that is a good example.
    – wimi
    Nov 28 '19 at 12:51
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The first sentence:

No puedo hacer que el bebé se duerma

Means that that you are doing something in order for the baby to fall sleep (for example, singing a song for him) and still the baby is awake.

On the other hand, the second sentence:

El bebé no me duerme

is not a correct way of saying (at least in Argentina). There are two common options:

a) El bebé no se me duerme.

Not very common. It means that the baby does not fall asleep (it is not implying that your are doing something) and in some way it affects you (this is implied by the word "me")

b) El bebé no se duerme.

This is the common saying. The baby does not fall asleep, just that.

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