Reflexive verbs

Verbos reflexivos – reflexive verbs
se” verbs
Reflexive verbs are used when the subject and object of the verb are the same, e.g., things that one does to oneself or a person does to him/herself.

Me ducho cada mañana – I shower every morning (‘I shower myself every morning’)

Me llamo Pedro – My name is Peter (‘I call myself Peter’); also Yo me llamo Pedro

Se lava los dientes – He cleans his teeth

Me levanté a las 6 – I got up at 6.

Reflexive verbs are indicated by se added to the infinitive:

lavarse – to wash oneself (in contrast to lavar – to wash something, e.g., a dog or car)

despertarse – to wake up (in contrast to despertar – to wake somebody else up)

Some verbs that are normally not reflexive can be made reflexive:

hablarse – to talk to oneself; se hablaba – he was talking to himself

comprarse – to buy for oneself

Some verbs have the reflexive form but do not refer to self, e.g.,

Mi madre se quejaron de la comida – my mother complained about the food

Reflexive pronouns (see also pronouns table):

me – myself

te – yourself (fam.)

se – yourself (Ud.), himself, herself, oneself, itself)

nos – ourselves

os – yourselves (fam.)

se – yourselves (Uds.), themselves

The reflexive pronoun is always placed before a conjugated verb, as above, but when the verb is infinitive, gerund, or imperative it is usually placed after:

Puedo calmarme – I can calm down

¡Levántate! – get up!

Acostándose temprano es bueno para usted – going to bed early is good for you

With the infinitive or a compound verb it can be placed before the verb, for emphasis:

¿Te quieres levantar? – Do you want to get up? (or: ¿Quieres levantarte?)

Me estoy duchando – I am having a shower (I am showering myself)

Estoy duchándome(ditto)



Reflexive irse means ‘leave’ or ‘go away’ (go-oneself)

Me voy – I’m leaving (I’m going, myself);  note: salir is more ‘to go out’ (of a specific place)

Other verbs change meaning, too, e.g., hacer/hacerse and cambiar/cambiarse:

Voy a hacer la cena – I’m going to make dinner

Voy a hacerme autor – I’m going to become (make myself) an author

Juan cambió las fechas de sus vacaciones – John changed the dates of his holidays

Juan se cambió antes de salir – John got changed before going out

Reflexive pronouns are also used for ‘reciprocal’ verbs (do something to each other), e.g.,

Juan y María se enamoraron en Madrid – John and Mary fell in love (with each other) in Madrid

Nos escribimos – we write to each other

Other common uses of the reflexive pronouns:

Aquí se vende café – Coffee is sold here (here coffee sells itself)

Aquí se venden libros – Books are sold here (here books sell themselves)

¿Cómo se dice “gambas” en inglés? – how does one say “gambas” in English?

No se puede entrar – You can’t go in

In general, using the reflexive pronouns with non-reflexive verbs adds emphasis (and makes them verbos pronominales – pronominal verbs):

Te peinas antes de salir – You brush your hair before going out

Os podéis sentar – You(pl) can sit down

Imperatives can use the reflexive pronouns too; if negative, the pronoun is usually before the verb:

No te levantes. – don’t get (yourself) up

¡No os vayáis! – don’t you, yourselves, go away!

Imperative positives usually have the pronoun after the verb:

¡Vete! – Go away!  (you go, yourself)

¡Siéntense! – sit yourselves down!
(these drop the s of present nosotros form: ¡Vámonos! – let’s go!; similarly drop the d of imperative vosotros: ¡Sentaos! – sit down!)

Reflexive verbs was last edited on 2021-01-18  
Topic: Spanish