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Sentences without a subject

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Sentences without a subject

There are sentences in which we don't say who performs the action:

En España se cena muy tarde.

In Spain, dinner is eaten very late.

Cenan muy tarde en España.

They eat dinner very late in Spain.

To construct them, we can use:

  • Se + verb in the 3rd person singular or plural, depending on the noun that goes with it.

Se busca camarero.

Waiter sought, Looking for a waiter.

Se buscan camareros.

Waiters sought, Looking for waiters.

  • Verbs conjugated in the 3rd person plural

Cuentan muchas cosas sobre el Dr. Macías.

People say a lot of things about Dr. Macías.

Ahí reparan bicicletas.

They repair bicycles there.

Generally, we use these structures when:

  • we don't want to reveal the identity of a person/people

Por ahí se dice que te vas a casar.

It's said that you're going to get married, Word is going round that you're going to get married. Note: por ahí literally means “over there”/“somewhere”, and in this kind of phrase has a distancing or blurring effect as regards who performs the action.

Por ahí me dijeron que te vas a casar.

People/A little bird told me that you are going to get married. Note: por ahí literally means “over there”/“somewhere”, and in this kind of phrase it has a distancing or blurring effect as regards who performs the action.

  • we make a generalization.

Se dice que el amor es ciego.

It is said that love is blind.

Dicen que el amor es ciego.

They say that love is blind.

  • we don't know who performs the action.

Me robaron el móvil.

They stole my cellphone.

Allí se venden cervezas.

Beers are sold there.

Notes

  • The verb that goes with se is conjugated in the singular when it is followed by a

Se entrevistó a la candidata. / Se entrevistó a las candidatas.

The candidate was interviewed. / The candidates were interviewed.

  • To make generalisations, there are other structures without a specific subject:

El hombre viajó a la Luna en 1969.

Man went to the Moon in 1969.

Uno vive bien en esa ciudad.

One lives well in that city.

Cualquiera puede hacer eso.

Anyone can do that.

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