Have you heard of the "no fault se" construction in Spanish? Do you know the "no fault se" formula and how to use it? Do you know which verbs are most commonly seen with the "no fault se"? Today's lesson will touch upon all of these topics!
If you lose a lot of things, like many of us, you'll be happy to hear that, unlike English, the Spanish language doesn't think it's our fault! It tends to describe certain things happening "to us" rather than us carrying them out. For example, instead of saying Yo perdí el libro (I lost the book), it would be more common for a native Spanish speaker to say, Se me perdió el libro (literally "The book got lost to me"). And, instead of saying directly "I dropped the eggs," you might say Se me cayeron los huevos, which literally translates to something like "The eggs fell from me."
Now that we have some idea about the "no fault se" construction, which might also be referred to as the "involuntary se," let's learn the necessary elements to create sentences that employ it:
1. The pronoun se.
2. An indirect object pronoun (me, te, le, nos, os, or le) that indicates "to whom" the action "is happening" (or, depending on perception, who "did" it!).
3. A verb in the third person that is conjugated in either singular or plural in accordance with the subject (as in passive constructions).
4. Optional: a (to) plus a prepositional pronoun (mí (me), ti (you), él (him), ella (her), usted (formal "you"), nosotros/as (we), vosotros/as (plural "you"), or ustedes (formal plural "you")), or a direct object to emphasize "the victim" of the action (see verbs like gustar).
Let's take a look at a couple of examples:
y se le cayó el trozo de carne.
and he dropped the piece of meat.
Caption 13, Club de las ideas La zorra y el cuervoPlay Caption
In terms of our formula, we have 1. the pronoun se 2. the indirect object pronoun le to indicate that it happened "to him" (since le corresponds to the subject pronoun él (him)), and 3. the verb caer (to fall) conjugated in third person singular because la carne (the meat) is singular. Optionally, a él could have been added to emphasize the action's "victim" (a él se le cayó...). Let's see another example:
El martes se me perdieron las llaves de casa,
On Tuesday, my house keys got lost,Play Caption
Here, we see: 1. the pronoun se 2. the indirect object pronoun me to point towards the first person, yo (I), and 3. the verb perder (to lose) conjugated in third person plural to agree with the plural las llaves (the keys). A mí could be an optional addition before "se me perdieron..."
In terms of the translation of the examples above, while the "no fault se" construction with caer is most often translated as "to drop," our second example might also have been communicated with "I lost my house keys" since this is the more common way of talking about losing things in English— although "got lost" might arguably convey this idea of "no fault" more effectively. That said, because there is not always an equivalent of every "no fault" construction in English, their translations may vary, and we will thus attempt to give you various English options for the following examples.
Now, let's examine some additional verbs that commonly appear in the "no fault se" construction.
Although a Spanish speaker could potentially say "Me olvidé" (I forgot), the idea of "forgetting" is more commonly expressed with the "no fault se" construction.
Por si se te olvidó, ¡soy tu madre! No, no se me olvidó. -Y si salí...
In case you forgot, I'm your mother! No, I didn't forget. -And if I went out...
Captions 41-42, Muñeca Brava 8 Trampas - Part 12Play Caption
Or, to emphasize this "involuntary" aspect, you might choose the alternative translations: "In case it slipped your mind/It didn't slip my mind."
While the verb ocurrir means "to happen," when used in the "no fault se" construction, common translations include both "to occur to" and "to think of":
No sé, se me ocurre que igual nos podríamos encontrar en otros sitios.
I don't know, it occurs to me that we could also meet in other places.
Captions 21-22, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 9Play Caption
Se me ocurrió una gran idea.
I thought of a great idea.
Caption 28, Guillermina y Candelario El paseo sobre el marPlay Caption
Whereas in English, one might confess that he or she "ran out of money," the money literally runs out on the person in Spanish!
Porque se me acabó el dinero y...
Because I ran out of money, and...Play Caption
Of course, one might also translate this construction as "my money run out."
Similarly, "I burned the cake" is most often expressed with the "no fault se" construction, as translated quite literally in the following example:
¡Dejé el pastel mucho tiempo en el horno y se me quemó!
I left the cake in the oven for too long and it burned on me!Play Caption
To talk about the idea of "leaving something behind" in the sense of "forgetting it" somewhere, native Spanish speakers frequently employ the "involuntary se" construction with the verb quedar:
Se te quedó esto. -Espera.
You left this behind. -Wait.
Caption 55, Salvando el planeta Palabra Llegada - Part 6Play Caption
These are just some of the verbs that are commonly utilized in the "no fault se" in Spanish. To see many more, check out El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: El pronombre se as well as Clase Aula Azul- Se involuntario, which explores this topic in depth... and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.