Impersonal Se in Spanish


Impersonal expressions are used when the subject of a verb is unspecified or unknown (but is human). They are mostly used to make general statements and to express rules, but are also very useful for asking how to spell a word or what a word means.

Se debe trabajar mucho para tener éxito.
One should work hard to gain success.
Se habla español en Costa Rica.
They speak Spanish in Costa Rica.
¿Cómo se escribe “chocolate”?
How do you spell “chocolate”?
¿Cómo se dice “beach” en español?
How do you say “beach” in Spanish?

Notice that while the English translation contains one, they, or you, there is no subject specified in Spanish.

Impersonal Se Formation

To form the impersonal se, verbs are always 3rd person singular and are commonly followed by a direct object.

  • se + 3rd person singular
Se necesita que la gente proteja la Tierra.
It's necessary that people protect the Earth.
Se habla español aquí.
Spanish is spoken here.
Se dice que va a llover mañana.
It's said it is going to rain tomorrow.
Se prohibe fumar.
Smoking is prohibited.

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