Spanish Grammar: Impersonal se vs. Passive se
It's not uncommon for non-native speakers of Spanish to confuse the impersonal se with the passive se. While the two my seem similar, they have different uses.
Impersonal "se"The impersonal "se" in Spanish is used to form impersonal expressions. Impersonal expressions are used when the subject of the sentence or the verb is not specified. Impersonal expressions using the impersonal "se" are most common when making general statements or communicating generic rules. They are also used to ask what a word means or how a word is spelled. The impersonal se is always formed using the following formula: se + 3rd person singular verb. Review the following examples of impersonal expressions using "se".
Spanish is spoken in Ecuador.
Se habla español en Ecuador.
How does one arrive at the bus stop?
¿Como se llega a la parada de autobús?
How do you say "shut up" in Spanish?
¿Cómo se dice “shut up” en español?
How do you spell “navidad”?
¿Cómo se escribe “navidad”?
Passive "se"Passive se constructions are used to communicate using the passive voice. The passive voice is used to indicate what happened to a non-living object (usually a noun or pronoun) without saying who or what committed the action. Passive se constructions only use transitive verbs (verbs that require a direct object). Review the following examples of the passive voice using passive se constructions.
The letter is written in French.
Se escribe la carta en francés.
English is spoken here.
Se habla Inglés aquí.
Pets are sold here.
Se venden mascotas aquí.
The entire pizza was eaten.
Se comió la pizza entera.