Why does this (native) Spanish speaker used "se" in this sentence: "no se me ocurre ninguna frase en español para expresar lo mismo"?


  • 1
    Occurirse is the verb, so "se ocurre" = it occurs. "se me occure" = it occurs to me
    – aris
    Jun 17, 2020 at 17:03
  • @aris The correct spelling is ocurrir.
    – Gustavson
    Jun 17, 2020 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


The sixth definition given in the DLE for ocurrir is

  1. prnl. Dicho de una idea: Venirse a la mente de repente y sin esperarla. Era u. t. c. intr.

So as a pronominal verb it means: of an idea, to come suddenly and unexpectedly to mind. If you are an English speaker you may have been taught these as reflexive but Spanish distinguishes various uses of se with a verb.

You might like to look also at questions and answers on this site tagged verbo-pronominal

In answer to a further question posed by the OP in a comment perhaps I should have stated that in this use ocurrir is only used in the third person. In this case ocurre is third person. As a piece of geneal advice I suggest that trying to translate all the component parts of pronominal verbs is a recipe for confusion. You just have to accept that they work the way they do, not spend time wondering from the sign on a house Se vende how it is that Spanish houses are clever enough to sell themselves.

  • but isn't the "me" in "se me ocurre" the "se" in ocurrirse? what about the "se"?
    – Celso
    Jun 17, 2020 at 18:48
  • 2
    @Celso mdewey is right. "Le" is the indirect object, which is obligatory for this pronominal verb (ocurrírsele a alguien algo): se me ocurre, se te ocurre, se le ocurre, etc.
    – Gustavson
    Jun 17, 2020 at 22:40
  • 1
    @Celso From your profile I see you've studied German, so maybe you've come across the verb einfallen. It's not pronominal like ocurrirse but it's used in the third person and the dative object points to the person who gets the idea. Mir fällt nichts Besseres ein is almost exactly parallel to No se me ocurre nada mejor.
    – pablodf76
    Jun 19, 2020 at 21:27

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