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I have heard the following sentence in the Narcos TV series:

Se pasará la vida huyendo si no lo alcanzamos.

Context: two detectives are discussing about an informant who snitched on his boss Gacha, one of the leaders of the Medellin cartel. One of the detectives says the sentence above. The subject of the sentence is the informant and the pronoun "lo" refers to Gacha.

What does the pronoun "se" mean in the sentence above in which "pasar" means "to spend (time)"?

DLE ( https://dle.rae.es/pasar) and WR (https://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=pasar) gives some meanings of the pronominal verb "pasarse", but none of them fits in the above sentence.

I have already read All about datives, or: What's that funny "le" or "me" doing in there? , but I am still unable to grasp the meaning of the pronoun in this sentence.

  • "se" is a dative and, although highly idiomatic, can be omitted: Se pasó la vida huyendo / Se pasó las vacaciones tomando sol / Se pasó todo el día comiendo. – Gustavson Dec 16 '19 at 21:40
  • @Gustavson ethical dative? – Alan Evangelista Dec 16 '19 at 21:43
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    I think it's a boundary case. "Se pasó la vida" and "Se pasó las vacaciones" can be sympathetic because a possessive may be understood as implied: "Pasó su vida / Pasó sus vacaciones". All three are also aspectual, because "se" gives the idea of completeness. – Gustavson Dec 16 '19 at 21:49
  • I like that explanation, "completeness." "Pasó las vacaciones en París" means that he went to Paris for his vacation. "Se pasó las vacaciones jugando futbol con los muchachos del barrio" means that he spent the whole vacation playing pick-up soccer. For your sentence, if I see "se" in the sentence, I'll add "whole" if I translate it to English. Or, we could say, "He'll spend the rest of his life etc." – aparente001 Dec 17 '19 at 5:30
  • I agree it is a boundary case between possessive and aspectual. Sometimes language doesn't let itself be explained with fixed, simple rules. – wimi Dec 17 '19 at 8:34
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In the sentence:

  • Se pasará la vida huyendo si no lo alcanzamos (meaning: He will keep changing his place of residence, he will never settle down for fear of being caught)

"se" is a dative that combines the sympathetic (possessive) and aspectual (completeness) features.

The possessive feature can be accounted for by the appearance of the possessive determiner in this similar (though less idiomatic) sentence:

  • Pasará su vida huyendo si no lo alcanzamos.

At the same time, "se" conveys the idea that the person will spend their entire life (or the rest of their life) escaping. Proof of this is that the sentence "Pasará la vida huyendo" is not idiomatic. This is because, with the verb "pasar", "la vida" can only be conceived of as a continuous, uninterrupted period of time. With other nouns where the idea of completeness is not meaningful, "se" can be eliminated, as in:

  • Pasó la tarde mirando películas. (The idea here is that the most important, though not necessarily the only action, the person performed that afternoon was to watch movies).
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  • I am unable to see the difference between "pasar la tarde mirando películas" and "pasar la vida huyendo". Both sentences express the most important action that the person performed/will perform in the described time period, though not necessarily the only one. In my example sentence, the person will not be running away 24 hours a day of every day of his/her life, as this is humanly impossible. – Alan Evangelista Dec 18 '19 at 0:14
  • "Se pasó la vida huyendo" does not refer to his running away but to his never feeling at ease, to his always being on guard for fear of being caught. – Gustavson Dec 18 '19 at 1:16
  • Tricky. Thanks for the explanation! It would be nice if you could make that clearer in your answer. – Alan Evangelista Dec 18 '19 at 1:18

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