"Se te olividaste cepillarte." from Little Nemo the movie

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Sorry about the spelling I'm sure it's wrong but I'm actually wondering about the se.

I think it translates to "you forgot to brush your teeth"

My question is, why is the "se" there'

3743 views
updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by Lee-Allen

8 Answers

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Quien mucho abarca, poco aprieta. wink

An expert is a person that knows nearly everything... about nothing.

updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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Thank you for your kind words, lazarus, but I must point out that when it comes to Spanish, I am strictly an amateur, and you know far more about the grammar of that language than I ever will. My strength is that, having learned Spanish as an adult myself, I can usually understand the difficulties that other English speakers are having with a certain Spanish concept. There are certain areas that are intuitive to natives, but difficult for non-natives to grasp (the use of para and por being a prime example).

When it comes to languages other than Japanese and English, I am the proverbial "aprendiz de todo, maestro de nada."

updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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James is a professional translator, he speaks several languages, and he seems to know nearly everything about their grammars, along with a nearly native-like intuition for their rules. I am just a qualified teacher of Spanish, and unfortunately, I sometimes get carried away with unnecessary technical terms which can be of little practical use to learners. However, I can give you most of the time deep technical answers to very unusual questions (or find them in a book for you).

I suggest that you request more examples if you are not sure, rather than more grammatical explanations... unless you're into it, of course.

updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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Wow, I am really impressed.

Are you all professionals?

Well, thanks again. This really helps me. I'm going to recommend this forum to my classmates for sure.

updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by Lee-Allen
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Lee, another example of what lazarus is describing is "Se me rompió el florero." You can think of it as literally meaning "the vase was broken to me." This makes no sense in English, but is quite common in Spanish, and as lazarus says, it is a way of talking about an action without assigning cause (or blame) for that action, as opposed to "I broke the vase."

Se rompió el florero = The vase broke
Se me rompió el florero = I broke the vase
Rompí el florero = I broke the vase

So, in the second example above, the "me" indirectly implicates someone, but it is much softer than the third example, in which the subject (yo) is given full blame.

updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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In English you normally talk about objects in general, but Spanish has direct ones and indirect one. Intransitive verbs are the ones without direct objects. However, many of these verbs can take indirect objects. A typical example of this is "me gusta", an intransitive verb for which that "me" is the indirect object.

In "Se te olvidó cepillarte", the subject is "cepillarte", and the "te" is an indirect object. Now, that "se" turns an otherwise transitive verb into an intransitive one, to mean that no one really meant to forget anything, but it just happened, it was an accident. This kind of "se" is sometimes referred to as "accidental SE", but dictionaries just say it is reflexive (a misleading term) or pronominal. Whereas the in the first and the third examples, the subject is a person, in the second one, the person is not the subject; instead, you could say that this person "gets affected" by the consequences.

updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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Thanks for the prompt and thorough reply.

One thing that I cannot grasp is your example

"Se te olvidó cepillarte - using the verb "olvidar" as intransitive'

If olvidar is intransitive, then it should not take an object right? But isn't the "te" in this phrase a direct object?

Why wouldn't it be "Se olvidó" '

updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by Lee-Allen
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That sentence si wrong. You can say:

Te olvidaste de cepillarte - using the verb "olvidarse" as pronominal
or
Se te olvidó cepillarte - using the verb "olvidar" as intransitive
or
Olvidaste cepillarte - using the verb "olvidar" as transitive

updated JUN 12, 2008
posted by lazarus1907