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I just translated some sentences from Portuguese to Spanish using Google translator and noticed the use of "nada ha cambiado" and "nada se cambió". Do they have the same meaning?

Estoy tan feliz ahora que cuando éramos ricos y teníamos todo lo que queríamos. Créame, al menos para mí, nada ha cambiado.

Estoy tan feliz ahora que cuando éramos ricos y teníamos todo lo que queríamos. Créame, al menos para mí, nada se cambió.

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In the sentence "nada ha cambiado", the verb cambiar is intransitive (i.e., it has no direct object). Looking at the definitions of cambiar on DLE, the definition that fits is:

  1. intr. Modificarse la apariencia, condición o comportamiento. Ha cambiado el viento, el tiempo.

which is not listed as pronominal ("prnl."), so cambiarse is not used to refer to things that change (though, according to definition 7, it seems to be possible to use cambiarse for persons that change). The correct sentence is therefore the first one:

  • Estoy tan feliz ahora como cuando éramos ricos y teníamos todo lo que queríamos. Créame, al menos para mí, nada ha cambiado.

Note also that comparisons of equality in Spanish are expressed using "tan + adj. + como", and not "tan + adj. + que". I also fixed this in the sentence.

The phrase "nada se cambió" could appear in sentences where "nada" is the direct object, and "se" is reflexive passive. In this case, it would mean "nothing was changed":

  • Se discutió mucho sobre la necesidad de modernizar los procesos de fabricación, pero al final nada se cambió (The need for modernization of the manufacturing processes was discussed a lot, but in the end nothing was changed).

This phrase ("nada se cambió") implies that there is an agent that could have changed something, but they did not change anything. This idea can also be expressed as "no se cambió nada". This does not apply to your example sentences, where "nada" is the subject.

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  • I appreciate your answer, wimi, and don't doubt that it is true, but I did notice that there are some instances of "se cambió" and some appear to be in fairly prominent works and/or by fairly prominent people who sometimes write for a living. – Lisa Beck Dec 4 '20 at 4:55
  • I also see several instances of it here (in El País). Can you comment on that? – Lisa Beck Dec 4 '20 at 4:56
  • Initially, I was thinking that the answer was going to be related to the difference between "nothing has changed" and "nothing was changed," but your answer has made me think that perhaps there's more to it than just that. – Lisa Beck Dec 4 '20 at 5:00
  • I agree with you … in this context, "nada se cambió" sounds odd/is not the right choice, but I can imagine other situations in which "nada se cambió" would be the right choice (and even if it were referring to some_thing_ that changed). – Lisa Beck Dec 4 '20 at 5:03
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    @LisaBeck one could indeed say "nothing was changed" as "nada se cambió": that is why I start the answer saying that, in OP's sentences, the verb "cambiar" is intransitive (i.e., OP means "nothing changed" and not "nothing was changed", where "changed" would be transitive). Note that most of the examples you find have "nada" and "se cambió" in different sentences, as in "No dijo nada. Se cambió de ropa...". In the cases where "nada se cambió" appears in one sentence, it has a transitive meaning: someone could have changed something, but they did not. I added this clarification to the answer. – wimi Dec 4 '20 at 12:24

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