When to use "se pueden" instead of "se puede?" | SpanishDict Answers
6 Vote

I am quite confused about when to use se pueden instead of se puede. Can someone please explain it to me with examples, any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

7 Answers

6 Vote

Se puede means you can or one can

it can be used in sentances like: no se puede = it can't be done

or questions like: ¿Cómo se puede encontrar el hotel Miraflores, por favor?

= How can one (you) find the Miraflores hotel, please?

This is not the most colloquial way to say it but it does use the *form *se puede**

Se is also used with expressions such as ¿Como se dice? = how do you say? or How does one say?

Se habla Ingles aqui = English is spoken here (or, by implication, 'we speak English here')

Se vende leche aqui = we sell milk here / milk is sold here

You would only use se with the 3rd person singular so se pueden would not be used /exist**

I think you may be confusing its use as part of the passive se form with the reflexive pronoun se as part of a reflexive verb eg levantarse

.....which would be conjugated appropriately for each person

eg in the present tense: (yo) me levanto (tu) te levantas el se levanta etc..

3 Vote

impersonal se

Impersonal voice using se will use a singular verb since the se can be replaced by uno ("one").

Notice that the Plural Impersonal (unknown "they") does not use the se :

I don't see how the subject of a plural verb could be "one".

Se pueden comer frutas. One ?? should/can eat fruits

Se pueden comer frutas. Fruits can be eaten. (looks more like passive voice)

  • GFreed With Great respect my friend I said that se would only be used with 3rd person Singular and hopefully implied that its translation to one could would Not apply to the 3rd person plural - FELIZ77 Jul 25, 2010 flag
  • I have highlighted the point in question - FELIZ77 Jul 25, 2010 flag
2 Vote

I disagree with Feliz77. Se pueden definitely has a use in my opinion. I believe it is more correct when using plural objects to use the first verb in plural form when there are two verbs in a row. Se puede comer fruta. One can eat fruit. Se pueden comer frutas. One can eat fruits.

Edit: I might not have the English translation 100 percent correct. My original intention was to say that "se pueden" is not incorrect to use as was implied. One can eat fruits, fruits can be eaten, they say the same thing to me.

2 Vote

Feliz mean that Se is used passively one with the third person singular It corresponds with all the passive constructions in Englis Spainshdict has a good lesson on the use of Se.

  • Thank You Margaret :) I think you mean passively 'Only' with etc... - FELIZ77 Jul 25, 2010 flag
1 Vote

I just know what sounds right to me ears.

Edit: Here is a thread that might make sense of it. See what Heidita says about it

1 Vote

Jeezle I think you somehat missed my point my friend.

I was not meaning that you could never write se pueden but was trying to illustrate hat if you were using the passive se form to mean one could /you could then you should only use se with the singular verb as its meaning will be different from that of the plural translation. I am sorry if I didn't make my explanation of that point sufficiently clear red face

I have read the link to Heidita's post so, quoting from Heidita, she said :

"anyway, se puede evitar comer caramelos makes more sense in Spanish. Or Se deben evitar los caramelos."

She mentioned that when the object is plural the verb should also be plural I was using the singular form so it could be translated as one can/ you can Obviously the plural form could not have the same translation.

  • My disagreement lies with the part about the reflexive verb as se puede / se pueden ....... I don't see any correllation with reflexive verbs, and I would be surprised if the OP saw one or was implying one. It seems like a review about reflexive verbs. - jeezzle Jul 25, 2010 flag
  • Although you have edited it, so it no longer seems like the same post so this comment is irrelevant at any rate. C'est la vie. - jeezzle Jul 25, 2010 flag
  • You said " its meaning will be different from that of the plural translation" please explain the differences. - jeezzle Jul 25, 2010 flag
  • Firstly I said that I thought the questioner was possibly confusing the use of the passive se with the use of 'se' as a reflexive pronoun if you would like to read the last part of my answer - FELIZ77 Jul 25, 2010 flag
  • I read it. No need to get snappy. I don't have to agree with you all the time for us to be friends do I? - jeezzle Jul 25, 2010 flag
1 Vote

Here's how I understand it based on my SPAN 202 textbook:

You have the PASSIVE se and the IMPERSONAL se, which are different and are used in different situations.

The PASSIVE se is used to say that something is DONE TO a noun:

Se reparten todas las cartas antes de empezar a jugar. All the cards are dealt before beginning to play.

Se practica tablavela en las playas cerca del hotel. Windsurfing is practiced at the beaches near the hotel.

In both examples, you can isolate the verb and see that a noun is being "verb-ed" if you will. For the first example you can say "What is being dealt?" and answer "The cards." For the second example you can ask "What is being practiced" and anser "Windsurfing."

The IMPERSONAL se is slightly different. It says what one can do/ what you can do:

En esta zona se escala mucho. In this area, one climbs a lot.

Unlike the PASSIVE se examples, if you ask "what is climbed?" you don't know the answer. Obviously it's mountains or something, but you never state it. That's because this sentence isn't saying WHAT IS DONE to a noun, but instead says WHAT ONE/A PERSON DOES.

Good so far? Great. Now here's where it gets tricky.

Se pueden escuchar los gatos. The cats can be heard.

You use PUEDEN because you are describing something that is done to the cats. In this case, poder+verb work together to form a SINGLE VERB PHRASE that acts upon a noun. You can ask "What CAN BE HEARD?" Answer: "The cats can be heard."

AND YET the following sentence is true:

Se puede entretener a los niños en una sala de videojuegos por horas. You/One can entertain children in a game room for hours.

But Skasis, you ask me, why isn't is "se pueden entretenar? You're talking about entertaining multiple children, aren't you?"

WRONG! The small little word "a" makes all the difference.

If the sentence didn't have "a" you could write:

Se pueden entretener los niños... And it would mean "The children CAN BE entertained..."

But because you have "a", the sentence MUST BE read as an example of IMPERSONAL se rather than PASSIVE se.

The same thing happens with the word "sobre". For example:

Se aprende sobre flores. One/You learn about flores.

Se aprenden flores. The flowers are learned about.

Make sense?

  • Do you realise that this question is nearly three years old. - Eddy Mar 27, 2013 flag
  • Yeah, but it's relevant to me. a few of my classmates now and we were looking it up in class. - Skasis Apr 1, 2013 flag
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