Spanish Lessons

Topics

Getting Impersonal

An impersonal statement is one that has no determinate subject. In English you'll hear impersonal expressions like "you shouldn't point your finger at people" or "one would think the airlines would have to close down." 

Spanish has a different way to express the impersonal voice, though. To make general statements Spanish adds the pronoun se in front of verbs. Let's see some examples:

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 In the new episode of Yago - Pasión Morena we hear a distressed Yago stating a very basic and general principle indeed:

 

No se mata lo que se ama.

You don't kill what you love.

Caption 25, Yago - 11 Prisión

 Play Caption

 
Of course, to express this idea in Spanish you can also do as in English and simply conjugate the verb in the second person:

No matas lo que amas.
You don't kill what you love.

However, in Spanish the use of se is much more common, expressive and emphatic.

Actually, in Spanish it's also possible to use the word uno (one) instead. In this case you must use the third person:

Uno no mata lo que ama.
One shouldn't kill what ones loves.

Here are another two examples from our catalog, both using the verb decir (to say):
 

Bueno y se dice que la mujer tiene un sexto sentido

Well, and one says that a woman has a sixth sense

Caption 16, Club de las ideas - Intuición

 Play Caption

 

Bananas, o ¿cómo se dice en España?

Bananas, or how do you say it in Spain?

Caption 39, Curso de español - Tiendas y edificios públicos en la ciudad

 Play Caption

 

And then with the verb hacer (to do, to make):

 

...s' se hace como un... té.

...o' one makes like a... tea.

Caption 12, Recetas - Capirotada

 Play Caption

 
Take note, both the Spanish impersonal and singular passive voice use the same construction. You can clearly see it by comparing the above example with the following one using the same verb hacer (to do, to make):
 

¿Esto se hace en otros puntos de... de Europa?

Is this done in other parts of... of Europe?

Caption 59, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 13

 Play Caption

 
Luckily, being able to make this distinction is really not that relevant because the difference is mostly just grammatical. For example, for practical purposes, you could also interpret this example as a case of the impersonal and translate it as, "Do you do this in other parts of... of Europe?"

Finally, note that Spanish also uses the plural to express impersonal ideas. In this case, however, you don't need to use the pronoun se, you only use the third-person plural ellos (they).
 

Y el futuro que vendrá, dicen que pende de un hilo

And the future that will come, they say that it hangs by a thread

Caption 79, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 2

 Play Caption


The beautiful thing about the Spanish plural impersonal is that it doesn't use the pronoun ellos (they)—just the verb conjugated in the third-person plural dicen (they say). In fact, in Spanish it can't be impersonal at all if you include the pronoun, if you actually say ellos dicen (they say). If the same example were to include the pronoun ellos (them), then it would mean that the subject is actually known from context. Check out the modified version of the previous example to which we added one of many possible contexts in brackets:

[Los dioses llegaron en sus naves blandas.Y el futuro que vendrá, dicen ellos que pende de un hilo.
[The gods arrived in their soft vessels.] And the future that will come, they say that it hangs by a thread.

The plural impersonal is used a lot to spread gossip when combined with the verbs decir (to say), contar (to tell), etc.
 

Dicen que nadie puede seguirte el tren

They say nobody can keep up with you

Caption 14, Bahiano - Oyelo

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Or popular knowledge:

 

Dicen que si los sueños se cuentan

They say that if you tell your dreams,

después no se cumplen, loco.

then they won't come true, dude.

Caption 43, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta

 Play Caption

 

Grammar

A Word Set Apart

Cognates are words in two languages that share a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation and are a great tool for expanding your vocabulary. However when learning cognates, you must also learn how to use them correctly. Take for example the word aparte (apart). In one of our newest videos we hear Cleer using it:

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

¿Puedo ordenarla sin cebolla y con el aderezo aparte?

Can I order it without onions and with the dressing on the side?

Caption 44, Cata y Cleer - En el restaurante

 Play Caption


In this case, English generally uses the expression "on the side" and not the cognate "apart" to translate aparte, even though expressions such as "can I have the dressing apart" or "serve the dressing apart" are not necessarily incorrect. On the other hand, Spanish does have an equivalent expression to "on the side": a un lado, which, in this case, you can certainly use instead of aparte¿Puedo ordenarla sin cebolla y con el aderezo a un lado? 

The word aparte is used a lot in Spanish. It could mean "besides, apart from, aside, as well, other than that" etcetera. For example:
 

...pero en lugar de ponerle nada más el caldito del piloncillo, aparte, se le va poniendo una leche, evaporada.

...but instead of putting into it only the little brown sugar cone broth, besides, one starts putting into it some milk, evaporated [milk].

Captions 46-48, Recetas - Capirotada

 Play Caption


It's very common to combine the word aparte with the preposition de. 

 

Pues, pero aparte de eso, para mí lo más importante es la seguridad.

Well, but besides that, for me, the most important thing is safety.

Caption 33, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 13

 Play Caption


So you can use the expression aparte de as an equivalent of "apart from" meaning "besides" or "other than that":

 

Y... aparte de la música, me gusta patinar.

And... apart from music, I like to skate.

Caption 14, Zoraida - Lo que gusta hacer

 Play Caption


Sometimes you would need the verbs separar (to separate) or apartar (to put or get apart) for expressions that in English require the word "apart." For example, while in English you say "I'm never apart from you," you can't really say nunca estoy aparte de ti in Spanish. Spanish speakers would rather say nunca me aparto de ti or nunca me separo de ti.

 

Tiene un valor muy importante para mí... jamás me separo de esa foto.

It has a very important value for me... I'm never apart from that photo.

Caption 6, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8

 Play Caption


Spanish doesn't use aparte in the same way English uses "apart" to talk about difference or separation in time, for example:

 

Como se llevan cuatro años de diferencia.

Since they are four years apart.

Caption 26, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 1

 Play Caption


So if you want to express the idea "they were born four years apart" you would say nacieron con cuatro años de diferencia [or separación]. 
Spanish also uses the verb separar (to separate) in cases where English uses expressions such as "put apart," "drive apart," "come apart," etc.:

 

Nos separa tu temor

Your fear tears us apart

Caption 5, Ha*Ash - Lo que yo sé de ti

 Play Caption

 

Or even verbs like deshacer (to undo):
 

Evidentemente, al cocer, se va a deshacer, se va a desmenuzar.

Evidently, upon cooking, it is going to come apart, it's going to crumble.

Caption 20, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 6

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Instead of the dramatic "tear apart" Spanish would use the prosaic abrir (to open):

 

Nos abrimos el pecho

We tear our chest apart

Caption 15, San Pascualito Rey - Hoy no es mi día

 Play Caption

You May Also Like