Can a verb be made pronominal and keep the meaning of its non-pronominal form? For instance, in the following sentence, why does "hacer" keep it's meaning of "to do"?

Se hacen la compra los unos a los otros. - They do one another's shopping.

(The sentence and its translation are from A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish, 5th edition, by John Butt and Carmen Benjamin.)

Hacer means "to do" or "to make". However, "hacerse" means "to make oneself", "to pretend", "to act, "to become", "to get used to" and "to feel" according to SpanishDicitionary.com.

So, my question is, since it is obvious that in this instance "to do" is intended rather than any of the meanings of "hacerse", can a Spanish verb just be made pronominal if a reflexive meaning is intended?

  • guiujuuu! Llegamos a las 9000 preguntas! Che, y qué significa eso? No me gusta el ejemplo del libro, ni siquiera creo que te podemos ayudar porque no tiene sentido la traducción. Yo puedo ‘hacer las compras’. No veo que tenga sentido ‘hacerle la compra a alguien’. En todo caso, se diría directamente ‘comprar a alguien’. Así que primero que nada, qué es lo que significa en inglés? Así lo traducimos correctamente
    – tac
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 1:46
  • ‘Se compran entre sí’? ‘se truecan’? ‘los agentes económicos generan transacciones intermedias entre ellos’? Qué quisiste decir?
    – tac
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 1:52
  • 1
    @tac, por eso he especificado que en España "hacer la compra" (en singular) es una frase muy habitual. Yendo al tema en cuestión, "hacer la compra a Pedro" funciona como "hacer un favor a Pedro", igual que muchas otras frases de la forma "hacer x a alguien". Y puestas en modo reflexivo siguen funcionando: "se hacen la permanente las unas a las otras".
    – aerobiomat
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 10:30
  • 2
    @tac you asked what it means in English. The quoted translation (They do one another's shopping) means that some days A goes out and does B's shopping, other days B goes out and does A's shopping. Of course the shopping circle might also involve C D and so on. It would not cover the case where A always shopped for B but B, perhaps because of some disability, never shopped for A.
    – mdewey
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 15:57
  • 1
    So how to you express the non-reciprocal nature of it as discussed by Mdewey.? do you just say,''A hace las compras para B''o''Todos hacen las compras para B''?
    – Bluelion7
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 19:46

2 Answers 2


As explained in DPD in section 1, the use of se as a pronoun can have many meanings.

One of them is as part of a pronominal verb, which has a different meaning from the verb without pronoun (section 1d, example "dormirse").

Another one (section 1b) is as a direct or indirect object, when the action of the verb applies to the subject (reflexive pronoun, example "peinarse") or when the subject is plural and the the action applies to "each other" (reciprocal pronoun, example "María y Juan se escriben cartas").

Your example "Se hacen la compra los unos a los otros" is a reciprocal usage of se, so it does not change the meaning of the verb.


I do not think that is strictly speaking pronominal. You should interpret se as a reflexive being used in a reciprocal sense. Since that may lead to ambiguity (did the writer mean reflexive or reciprocal) they have helpfully added los unos a los otros to make it clear a reciprocal usage is intended here.

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