Using the "accidental" reflexive (se) with an indirect object pronoun

In Spanish "se" is used in verbs/sentences that imply that something happens by accident or unintentionally. Between "se" and the conjugated verb is an indirect object pronoun (me, te, le, nos, os, les) to indicate who/what the accident happened to.

Let's have a look at some examples:

Se me rompió el reloj ayer.
My watch broke (accidentally) yesterday.

See how the verb romper (to break) is conjugated in the 3rd person singular (matching with el reloj) and "me" is between "se" and the verb, expressing that it happened to me.

Se le cayeron los libros.
He/she (accidentally) dropped his/her books.

See how this time the verb caer (to drop) is conjugated in the 3rd person plural (matching with "los libros") and "le" is in between "se" and the verb, expressing that it happend to "him" or "her".

Typical verbs that are used to express unintentional or accidental occurences are:

  • romperse (to break)
  • caerse (to drop)
  • olvidarse (to forget)
  • acabarse (to run out of)
  • perderse (to lose)
  • quemarse (to burn)
  • quedarse (to leave behind)

Here are more examples:

Se nos han olvidado las llaves.
We forgot the keys.

¡Se te está quemando la tostada!
Your toast is burning! (your = belonging to "tú")

Se les van a caer las cajas de las manos.
They are going to drop the boxes. (lit: The boxes are going to fall from their hands.)

¿Se os ha perdido el gato?
Did you lose your cat? (you = "vosotros")

Se nos ha acabado la tinta de la impresora.
We ran out of ink for the printer.

Se me ha quedado el libro en casa.
I left the book (behind) at home.

This type of structure has a specific effect which is taking the "blame" away from the person and emphasises the accidental nature and/or how unexpected the action is. These two sentences for example mean the same but have a different effect:

He perdido mi móvil.
I lost my mobile phone.

Se me ha perdido mi móvil.
I (accidentally) lost my mobile phone / My mobile got lost.

In the first sentence, we put the "blame" on "I", however in the second sentence it looks like the blame is on "the mobile".

Also bear in mind that generally these verbs used in the accidental "se" move away from their original meaning when they are used with se. For example:

  • caer (to fall) but caerse (to drop)
  • acabar (to finish) but acabarse (to run out of)
  • quedar (to remain) but quedarse (to leave behind)

 Remember:

Se + [me, te, le, nos, os, les] + verb in 3rd person singular/plural + subject

 

 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Se les van a caer las cajas de las manos.
They are going to drop the boxes. (lit: The boxes are going to fall from their hands.)


Se me rompió el reloj ayer.
My watch broke (accidentally) yesterday.


Se me ha quedado el libro en casa.
I left the book (behind) at home.


Se le cayeron los libros.
He/she (accidentally) dropped his/her books.


Se nos ha acabado la tinta de la impresora.
We ran out of ink for the printer.


¿Se os ha perdido el gato?
Did you lose your cat? (you = "vosotros")


Se nos han olvidado las llaves.
We forgot the keys.


¡Se te está quemando la tostada!
Your toast is burning! (your = belonging to "tú")


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