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One can see many stars

 

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  #1  
Old December 19, 2011, 12:55 PM
pacomartin123 pacomartin123 is offline
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One can see many stars

I am receiving advice on other forums that I don't think is correct.

The English phrase "One can see many stars" would be translated as:
"uno puede ver muchas estrellas".

But I am told that the following statement is incorrect:
(1) "se puede ver muchas estrellas"

It should actually be as follows (with plural verb):
(2) "se pueden ver muchas estrellas"

Is (1) acceptable? If not, why not?

---------------------
There is a similar issue in English, considering that we have no epicene singular pronoun.

If you ask "How should a student prepare his homework?" the proper response (using a pronoun) is one of the following:
(A) "One should prepare one's homework neatly"
(B) "He should prepare his homework neatly"
(C) "He or she should prepare his or her homework neatly" (awkward)

But many people will respond
(D) "They should prepare their homework neatly"

While (D) was once proper English more than 3 centuries ago, it is considered improper today. But it is so widely done, that some grammarians think that it will become the norm again.
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  #2  
Old December 19, 2011, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pacomartin123 View Post
I am receiving advice on other forums that I don't think is correct.

The English phrase "One can see many stars" would be translated as:
"Uno puede ver muchas estrellas". This is one way to translate it.

But I am told that the following statement is correct:
(1) "Se puede ver muchas estrellas." This is correct, and is the more common way to translate it.

It should actually be as follows (with plural verb):
(2) "Se pueden ver muchas estrellas." No, this is not correct.

Is (1) acceptable? If not, why not? (What you're talking about here is the impersonal 'se', not the 'voz pasiva refleja'. This last structure is the one whose verb needs to agree with the object. The impersonal 'se' is used when the subject isn't a specific individual, when you're talking 'in general' to no one in particular.)

---------------------
There is a similar issue in English, considering that we have no epicene singular pronoun.

If you ask "How should a student prepare his homework?" the proper response (using a pronoun) is one of the following:
(A) "One should prepare one's homework neatly"
(B) "He should prepare his homework neatly"
(C) "He or she should prepare his or her homework neatly" (awkward)

But many people will respond
(D) "They should prepare their homework neatly"

While (D) was once proper English more than 3 centuries ago, it is considered improper today. But it is so widely done, that some grammarians think that it will become the norm again.
(D) is a very popular, and correct, choice in America, but since you used 'his' in your sentence, (B) would be better. (C) was used 30 years ago by those who didn't like the standard use of 'he' to mean both sexes. (B) is still correct and is a proper choice. So is (A), although it sounds stuffy.

Last edited by Rusty; December 19, 2011 at 01:24 PM.
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  #3  
Old December 19, 2011, 01:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pacomartin123 View Post
(1) "se puede ver muchas estrellas"

---------------------
But many people will respond
(D) "They should prepare their homework neatly"

While (D) was once proper English more than 3 centuries ago, it is considered improper today. But it is so widely done, that some grammarians think that it will become the norm again.
As for the English, I suspect the masculine option would have been acceptable, because of course, women didn't have homework anyway. But when not being flippant, I think (D) is becoming the norm.
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Old December 19, 2011, 01:51 PM
pacomartin123 pacomartin123 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty View Post
Impersonal 'se'
Thank you Rusty. I was looking for a valid grammatical reason. I see that the impersonal plural does not use the word 'se'.

Dicen que la pizza vegetariana es saludosa.

As to the English question:
I have read that before 1700 it was common to say "they". But then it was declared improper by grammarians to use the plural tense. But after WWII, using the simple masculine was no longer considered correct, and "they" became widely used once again. Some grammarians think that "they" will eventually be declared proper English, but for now it is on the books as incorrect.

But from your explanation, it doesn't seem that my Spanish question, and the English question were related. I am confusing two different issues.
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  #5  
Old December 19, 2011, 02:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pacomartin123 View Post
I see that the impersonal plural does not use the word 'se'.

Dicen que la pizza vegetariana es saludosa. Technically, this usage isn't an 'impersonal plural', although it may be that some have called it that. This usage is known as 'falsas impersonales'.
The impersonal 'se' (se dice que) can be translated as 'One says ...', 'They say ...', or 'He or she says ...'.

As to the English question:
I have read that before 1700 it was common to say "they". But then it was declared improper by grammarians to use the plural tense. But after WWII, using the simple masculine was no longer considered correct, and "they" became widely used once again. Some grammarians think that "they" will eventually be declared proper English, but for now it is on the books as incorrect. I've read just the opposite, that it is acceptable English usage. See the excerpt, and link, below.

But from your explanation, it doesn't seem that my Spanish question, and the English question were related. I am confusing two different issues.
  • You can use the plural pronouns ‘they’, ‘them’, ‘their’ etc., despite the fact that, technically, they are referring back to a singular noun:
If your child is thinking about a gap year, they can get good advice from this website.
A researcher has to be completely objective in their findings.

Some people object to the use of plural pronouns in this type of situation on the grounds that it’s ungrammatical. In fact, the use of plural pronouns to refer back to a singular subject isn’t new: it represents a revival of a practice dating from the 16th century. It’s increasingly common in current English and is now widely accepted both in speech and in writing.

http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/...he-versus-they
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Old December 19, 2011, 04:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pacomartin123 View Post

But I am told that the following statement is incorrect:
(1) "se puede ver muchas estrellas"

It should actually be as follows (with plural verb):
(2) "se pueden ver muchas estrellas"

Is (1) acceptable? If not, why not?
Not easy to explain. When infinitives are involved, Spanish students should use "puede/n verse". The better option is "pueden verse muchas estrellas" or "se pueden ver muchas estrellas", as there are still many stars in spite of the impersonal subject. In America -the continent ranging from Greenland to Tierra del Fuego- we use a lot "se puede ver muchas estrellas" that is a sort or "absolute" impersonal or maybe a "lazy" impersonal -as you don't need to think in coordinating with the following part of the sentence-. But when you try to say "puede verse muchas estrellas", you perceive the lack of coordination.

My warning about "puede/n verse" instead of "se puede/n ver" comes from "poder + infinitive" being a "perífrasis verbal" in Spanish, so you can take "puede/n ver" and add the pronoun at the beginning or the end ("se pueden ver" or "pueden verse"), but other common structures are not "perífrasis verbales" -or they are not widely acknowledged like that-, for instance, "quieren irse" which cannot be put as "se quieren ir" although informally we all say it.
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Old December 19, 2011, 04:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pacomartin123 View Post
I am receiving advice on other forums that I don't think is correct.

The English phrase "One can see many stars" would be translated as:
"uno puede ver muchas estrellas".

But I am told that the following statement is incorrect:
(1) "se puede ver muchas estrellas" = many stars can be seen
Adding to what has been said...

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Old December 19, 2011, 04:36 PM
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Here you can find more discussion and some links about the topic:

http://forums.tomisimo.org/showthread.php?t=12141
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Old December 19, 2011, 04:50 PM
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"Many stars can be seen" is a 'passive' translation, and I agree that the plural should be used, because 'stars' is plural.

The English sentence "One can see many stars" is written using the 'active voice'. There is a subject. The 'passive' lacks a subject.
When the subject in the active voice doesn't designate a specific person, it's translated into Spanish using the 'impersonal 'se'' construct. The singular form of the third-person ending is used.

Native speakers sometimes confuse these two constructs.

Last edited by Rusty; December 19, 2011 at 04:53 PM.
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Old December 19, 2011, 05:00 PM
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Some examples:

Using CREA (Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual - Real Academia Española):

"se puede ver muchas" ---> 0 results
"se puede ver unas" ---> 0 results
"puede verse muchas" ---> 0 results
"puede verse unas" ---> 0 results
"se pueden ver muchas" ---> 4 results [Including "Con estos instrumentos, se pueden ver muchas más estrellas que a ojo..." from "Guía para observar el firmamento", María Rosa Herrera Merino, 2002, España]
"se pueden ver unas" ---> 4 results
"pueden verse muchas" ---> 1 result
"pueden verse unas" ---> 2 results [Both, "pueden verse unas cuantas galaxias..." and "pueden verse unas 6.500 estrellas..." from "Manual práctico del astrónomo aficionado", José María Oliver, 1992, España]

If they are needed I may found instances of "se pueden..." in the very "Nueva Gramática". From "Diccionario panhispánico de dudas" (Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española): "Se pueden distinguir dos tipos de concordancia:".
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