• Speaking Brazilian

How to use the word SE



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Do you know how to use the word SE? This little word is complicated because it’s used in many different contexts and it’s not always possible to translate it into other languages.


In this lesson, you'll learn the 5 most common uses of the word SE.


1. The word SE is a conjunction, that is, it is used to connect two sentences, especially to indicate a condition. In this case, we can translate the word SE into English as IF.


- Se chover, vou ficar em casa. (If it rains, I'll stay home.)

- Se eu pudesse, viajaria ao Brasil neste verão. (If I could, I would travel to Brazil this summer.)

- Se você quiser aprender português, assista aos meus vídeos. (If you want to learn Portuguese, watch my videos.)


2. The word SE is used with pronominal or reflexive verbs.


- A criança caiu e se machucou. (The child fell and got hurt.)

- Ela se arrependeu de não dizer a verdade. (She regretted not telling the truth.)

- Maria se levantou cedo ontem. (Maria got up early yesterday.)

- João e Maria se encontraram para jantar. (João and Maria met for dinner.)


3. The word SE is used to indicate an indeterminate subject, that is, when it’s not clear who does the action. This use is less common in spoken and colloquial language, but it is widely used in written or formal language.


- Vive-se muito bem no Brasil. (People live very well in Brazil.)

- Precisa-se de vendedores. (Salesperson needed.)

- Em nossa empresa, respeita-se às normas. (In our company, standards are respected.)


4. The word SE is used to indicate that the verb is in a passive voice. This use is also not common in spoken and colloquial language, but it is used in written or formal language.


- Vendem-se casas. (Houses for sale.)

- Casas são vendidas. (Houses are sold).


- Reformam-se carros antigos. (Old cars are renovated.)

- Carros antigos são reformados. (Old cars are renovated).


- Enviou-se o relatório a todos os funcionários. (The report was sent to all employees.)

- O relatório foi enviado a todos os funcionários. (The report has been sent to all employees).


5. The word SE can also be used as a stylistic resource, without any grammatical function. In this case, that word can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.


- Lá se foi mais um ano. (Another year has passed.)

- Mariana riu-se envergonhada quando João olhou para ela. (Mariana laughed in embarrassment when João looked at her.)

- Acabou-se a confiança nos políticos brasileiros. (Confidence in Brazilian politicians has ended.)


I talked about 5 different ways to use the word SE, but only the first two situations are really common in spoken language. I recommend that you don't worry too much about the less common uses because they aren't used much in colloquial language. So, remember, these are the two most common uses:


1. We use the word SE in sentences that indicate a condition:

- Se eu puder, vou viajar ao Brasil no final do ano. (If I can, I will travel to Brazil at the end of the year.)


Click here to learn more about how to use the word SE in sentences that indicate a condition.


2. We use the word SE with pronominal and reflexive verbs.

- Maria se queixou do seu trabalho. (Maria complained about her work.)


Click here to learn more about how to use the word SE with pronominal verbs.


Another question I hear all the time is where to put the pronoun SE, before or after the verb? There are many rules regarding pronominal placement, but in Brazil, we almost always put the pronoun SE before the verb in colloquial language. I recommend that you put object pronouns before the verb. For example:

- Ela se queixou do trabalho (uso mais comum). She complained about the job (most common use).

- Ela queixou-se do trabalho (uso formal). She complained about the job (formal use).


That's it, guys! Now you know how to use the word SE.


Now it's homework time! Write a comment below using the word SE.


Até a próxima!

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