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Les deux passent la nuit ensemble.

or

Les deux se passent la nuit ensemble.

I was always confused on the difference between using se or ensemble.

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Incidentally, Les deux se passent la nuit ensemble does not seem like something a native speaker would say. –  Relaxed Aug 11 at 18:34
    
@Relaxed Because this is not a grammatically correct sentence. Les deux passent la nuit ensemble would be a correct sentence. –  Sifu Aug 13 at 13:39
    
@Sifu “se passer” does exist (une heure se passe, ils se passent le sel) and the sentence is therefore grammatically perfectly acceptable. It just makes no sense in this context, which was my point. –  Relaxed Aug 13 at 21:35

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Je traduirais par :

Ils passent tous les deux la nuit ensemble.

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I think an easier way to understand the difference between se and ensemble would be with a simpler sentence :

Ces personnes se mangent. AND Ces personnes mangent ensemble.

They would translate respectively to :

These people are eating themselves (or… each other). AND These people are eating together.

Does that help?

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2  
Well, there's one more meaning to “ils se mangent”: Ces gâteaux, ils se mangent (one can eat them). –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 11 at 16:35
    
@StéphaneGimenez mais les gens ? à moins de le dire à des anthropophages. –  Laure Aug 11 at 16:41
    
@Laure Bien... un humain est.. mangeable, à proprement parler. Mais, d'un autre côté, on ne pourrait pas dire "<del>Ces gâteaux mangent ensemble</del>" –  Sifu Aug 11 at 16:42
    
@Laure: Dans les deux premiers cas on a aussi affaire à de l'anthropophagie, je n'introduis rien de nouveau en ce qui concerne ce point. –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 11 at 17:42
    
@StéphaneGimenez Enfin.. Cela pourrait aussi avoir une connotation sexuelle, mais c'était loin d'être le but de cette réponse! Si vous avez une meilleure idée de verbe pouvant avoir une distinction claire, je placerai ma réponse en "community wiki" et je vous laisserai l'y mettre. –  Sifu Aug 11 at 17:46

Quite often « se » means « self ». So you can think that it stands for object of action:

il         se      laver  ->   he        wash   himself
subject    object  verb        subject   verb   object

Well, the translation is rough, but it's aimed to be illustrative ;-)

Another use of « se » is to express idea of return action, consider this example:

ils s'écrivent -> they write to each other

Also « se » may be used to create passive voice constructions:

il se vend -> il est vendu -> it is sold

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