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I was told that when the object of a verb is tú, you append te to the infinitive. How come it doesn’t work for ser?

2 Answers 2

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The verb ser is intransitive (or copulative) and so cannot have an object. You can find such information about the verb in its entry in the dictionary here and the difference between transitive and intransitive I assume you know already.

There is much more information about the copulative verbs in Spanish in the Wikipedia entry on Romance copula.

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After doing some research, it seems that your rule stands but when you have "you" in English as a direct object, that it's slightly different.

Let me explain:

I called you

can not be translated as

Llamé tú

because it's not idiomatic. The right version is

Te llamé

There is no equivalency between both. The same stands for

Quiero ser tú

and

Quiero serte

but in this case the second one is the non-idiomatic. For a native speaker, "serte" seems uncompleted, such sentence is missing something. For example:

Quiero serte fiel
[en: I want to be faithful to you]

is perfectly fine. As you can see there, "te" is the equivalent to "to you".

I've been trying to find an academical answer for your question with no luck. You can find detailed information about that kind of pronouns here. But it's a bit hard to follow even for a native speaker.

My main point is that you can replace "you" by "te" when is a direct object or an indirect object. But you cannot replace "tú" by "te", they are not equivalent in any context.

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  • I think the academical answer is actually what mdewey said... te is for direct and indirect objects, but ser does not take a direct or indirect object. The use of "querer" is irrelevant: the sentence "yo no soy tú" has the same issue: you cannot say "yo no te soy" because "tú" is not a direct or indirect object: it is an attribute. In "quiero serte fiel", we have an ethical dative "te", which is an indirect object.
    – wimi
    Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 16:54
  • @wimi But can you write a sentence where "tú" is the object in Spanish? The rule does not make sense if you mix languages. "Tú" can not be replaced by "te", that is what OP was trying.
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 18:54
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    Exactly. "Tú" is a subject or an attribute. "Ti" and "te" are direct or indirect objects. That is why "tú" cannot be replaced by "te". I do not know if there is an official source for this rule in Spanish, but it becomes very clear when one knows German where all pronouns (and adjectives!) have a nominative form (for subjects and attributes), an accusative form (for direct objects), and a dative form (for indirect objects). In any case, after your edit I guess we agree on the rule and are just expressing it in different words.
    – wimi
    Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 20:27
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    @wimi Yes! The thing is that I was trying to explain why "Quiero serte" is not valid, while mdewey explained why you can not apply that translation rule. I think that the canonical answer I was looking for is what you put there, Spanish derives from Latin which has declinations like German. Thanks for your comments :-)
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 5:06

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