Spanish Lessons


Distinguishing Parecer vs. Parecerse (in the Presence of Pronouns!)

A recent Yabla video entitled La Doctora Consejos: parecer vs. parecerse demonstrated the difference between the verb parecer (to seem) and the reflexive verb parecerse ("to look like" or "be similar"). Although, at first glance, the difference between these two verbs might seem simple, this can be confusing when pronouns are thrown into the mix.


When no pronouns are present, it will be quite obvious that the verb in question is parecer. Let's take a look:


La verdad es que pareces cansado.

To be honest, you seem tired.

Caption 11, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: parecer y parecerse

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Las cosas son más fáciles de lo que parecen.

Things are easier than what they seem.

Caption 25, Carlos explica Acentuación Cap. 3: La división en sílabas - Part 2

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On the other hand, when a sentence does involve pronouns, these two verbs become a bit harder to distinguish. One reason for this is that, although parecerse employs reflexive pronouns, while parecer is often accompanied by indirect object pronouns, there is some overlap in terms of the forms of these two pronoun types. Let's take a look:


Personal Pronoun Reflexive Pronoun Indirect Object Pronoun
yo  me me
te te
él, ella, usted se le
nosotros, nosotras nos nos
vosotros, vosotras os  os 
ellos, ellas, ustedes se les








Should we encounter se thenwe will know it is reflexive, while we will recognize le or les as indirect object pronouns. However, as you will notice that the reflexive and indirect object pronouns that correspond to four out of the six personal pronouns appear identical (me, te, nos, and os), how can we tell whether an instance of parecer accompanied by one of these pronouns is indeed parecer or its reflexive counterpart? 


Let's start with the verb parecerse. Keeping in mind that this is a reflexive verb, note that it is conjugated "as usual" to agree with its subject's corresponding personal pronoun: in other words, just like the verb parecer with the addition of the appropriate reflexive pronoun. With this in mind, let's take a look at the present indicative forms of parecer and parecerse:


Personal Pronoun: Present Indicative of Parecer: Present Indicative of Parecerse
yo parezco  me parezco 
pareces te pareces
él, ella, usted parece se parece 
nosotros, nosotras parecemos  nos parecemos 
vosotros, vosotras parecéis  os parecéis
ellos, ellas, ustedes parecen  se parecen


Now, let's look at some examples of the verb parecerse in action:


En eso me parezco mucho a mi madre. 

I'm a lot like my mother in that way.

Caption 38, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: parecer y parecerse

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¡Nos gustan las mismas cosas! Nos parecemos

We like the same things! We are similar.

Captions 40-41, Conversaciones en el parque Cap. 2: Cafe y bocadillos

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pero entonces tienes que decir, "Mis ojos se parecen a los ojos de mi madre", 

but then you have to say, "My eyes look like my mother's eyes,"

Caption 28, Clase Aula Azul El verbo parecer - Part 7

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Note that with the verb parecerse, the conjugations agree with the sentence's subjects, or who or what is performing the action of the sentence: in these cases yo (I), nosotros (we), and mis ojos (my eyes). In other words, we conjugate them in accordance with who or what "looks like" or "is similar to" something else.   


In contrast, when the verb parecer is accompanied by an indirect object pronoun, this verb falls into a class of verbs that function in a manner similar to the verb gustar. While we use the same conjugations of parecer (present indicative, etc.), the person or thing to whom or which something seems a certain way becomes the object of the sentence (receiver of the verb's action), while what seems that way to that entity is the subject. Let's take a look at some examples:


¿Qué cosas te parecen muy importantes en tu día a día? 

What things seem very important to you in your daily life?

Caption 25, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: parecer y parecerse

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Here, parecer is conjugated in accordance with las cosas (the things) that seem important rather than the person to whom they are, and the indirect object pronoun te tells us that the person they seem important to is (you). In addition, when parecer is accompanied by an indirect object pronoun, it entails an opinion, similar to the idea in English that someone "thinks" something. So, although, in the above example, parecer is translated as "to seem," an additional translation might be: "What things in your daily life do you think are important?" Let's look at another example:


A ti te parece bonita. 

You think it's pretty [literally "To you it seems pretty"].

Caption 11, Clase Aula Azul El verbo parecer - Part 2

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Were this the verb parecerse utilized with the reflexive pronoun te, the conjugation would instead be: te pareces (you look like). However, this is an instance of the verb parecer conjugated in the third person singular (parece) and accompanied by the indirect object pronoun te to indicate that what "seems" pretty to "you'" is "it'" (we know from the previous sentences that the "it" is the city of San Sebastian, Spain). And as with the verb gustar, adding a mí (to me), a ti (to you), a ellos (to them), etc. is optional but not essential for adding emphasis to this construction. 


Let's conclude with one last example:


y además podéis aprovechar para dar vuestra opinión sobre qué os parece este espacio y qué os parecen mis recetas.

and you can also take the opportunity to give your opinion about what you think of this space and what you think of my recipes.

Captions 36-37, La cocina de María Tortilla de patatas

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Again, remember that although os parece and os parecen have both been translated as "you think" here, which tends to be the more common way to express this idea colloquially, the more literal translations of sentences like this one (in this case, "and you can also take the opportunity to give your opinion about how this space seems to you and how my recipes seem to you") are useful to keep in mind when attempting to decipher or create such structures.


We hope this lesson has helped you to better differentiate the verbs parecer vs. parecerse when pronouns are present, particularly since many of the reflexive and indirect object se parecen (look alike). For an even more in-depth exploration of this topic, check out Clase Aula Azul's series entitled El verb parecer (The Verb Parecer).


That's all for today, and don't forget to send us your questions and comments

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