REFLEXIVE VERBS in Spanish -Flex some Spanish Muscle!

Not the favorite topic of Spanish students, especially coming from a language without a common equivalent – Reflexive verbs are indeed an important grammatical topic to get your head around pretty early on.

Reflexive verbs are simply when the subject of the verb is also its object.   What does this mean?  Let’s start off slow and work our way forward with some easy examples.

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A reflexive verb requires a reflexive personal pronoun, and these are:

Yo → me

Tú → te

Él / ella → se

Nosotos → nos

Ellos / ellas → se

Ustedes → se

Note that 3 of the examples are “se”, thus will be used ½ of the time.

As noted above, reflexive verbs are the verbs where the action of the verb back to the subject. In simple terms, this means that the person doing the action is also the person who receives the action.

For example:

  • Yo me lavo.I wash myself.
  • Ellos se visten.They dress themselves. (They get dressed)
  • Yo me baño.I bathe. (myself)

In Spanish some verbs use the reflexive form, but not in English, but still have the same reflexive idea, the action of the verb back to the subject.

For example:

  • Yo me acuesto temprano. - I go to bed early.
  • Ella se acercó mucho a la baranda.She came very close to the railing.
  • Los niños se cepillaron los dientes antes de dormir.The children brushed their teeth before bed.

Reflexive pronouns generally precede the verb in the simple tenses. In its original form the verb ends in “se” and change the “se” by the reflexive pronouns that we saw previously.

For example for the verb: Acostarse:

Yo me acuestoI go to sleep (I put myself to sleep)

te acuestasYou go to sleep (You put yourself to sleep)

Él / ella se acuestaHe/she goes to sleep (He/she puts their self to sleep)

Nosotros nos acostamosWe go to sleep (We put ourselves to sleep)

Ellos / ellas se acuestanThey go to sleep (They put themselves to sleep)

Ustedes se acuestanYou(pl) go to sleep (You put yourselves to sleep)

NOTE: when the statement is negative, “no” comes before the reflexive pronoun.

For example:

  • Los niños no se acostaron temprano.The children did not go to sleep early.
  • Él no se bañó hoy.He did not bathe today.
  • Nosotros no nos disfrazamos para Halloween.We do not dress up for Halloween.

When a reflexive verb is used as an infinitive, the reflexive pronoun is attached to the end of the infinitive or placed before the conjugated verb. Both forms are accepted.

For example:

  • Tú no quieres acostarte temprano. / Tú no te quieres acostar temprano.You do not want to go to sleep early.
  • Voy a bamarme. / Me voy a bañar.I´m going to take a bath.
  • Queremos levantarnos ahora. / Nos queremos levantar ahora.We want to get up now.

When the reflexive verb is used in a progressive tense, the reflexive pronoun is attached to the end of the present participle (gerund) or placed before the conjugated verb. When it is attached to the gerund, an accent mark is required. Both forms are accepted.

For example:

  • Estoy lavándome la cara. / Me estoy lavando la cara.I am washing my face.
  • Ella estaba acostándose cuando llegué. / Ella se estaba acostando cuando llegué.She was going to bed when I arrived.

When the reflexive verb is used in a compound tenses like the present prefect etc. the reflexive pronoun comes before the conjugated form of the helping (auxiliary) verb “haber”.

For example:

  • En este día ella se ha bañado como tres veces.On this day she has bathed about three times.
  • Ellos ya se habían acercado a mí antes de hacerlo yo.They already had approached me before I did.
  • no te has afeitado como en cien años.You have not shaved in about a hundred years.

When the reflexive verb is used in affirmative commands, reflexive pronouns follow the verb and are attached to it. In negative commands, reflexive pronouns precede the verb. Affirmative commands with more than two syllables have a written accent over the stressed vowel.

For example:

  • Báñate temprano por favor.Bathe early please.
  • No te bañes temprano por favor.Do not bathe early please.
  • Lávense las manos.Wash your hands.
  • No se laven las manos.Do not wash your hands.

Common Spanish reflexive verbs to put in your back pocket:

apresurarseto hurry up

acercarseto approach

acordarse deto remember

acostarseto go to bed

afeitarseto shave

avergonzarse deto be embarrassed

asustarse / espantarseto be frightened

ahogarseto drown, to choke

atreverse ato dare

aburrirseto bore (someone)

aprovecharse deto take advantage of (an opportunity)

arrepentirse deto regret, to be sorry, to repent

asegurarse deto secure, to assure, to make sure

acostumbrarse ato be in the habit, to get accustomed

burlarse deto make fun of

bañarse / ducharseto take a shower

comportarse / portarseto behave

callarseto be silent, to keep quiet

cepillarseto brush

casarse conto marry, to get married

cansarse (de)to wear out, to get tired

concentrarseto concentrate

chocarseto crash

cuidarseto look after oneself, take care of oneself

confundirseto mistake

disfrazarseto dress up, to disguise

despertarseto wake up

divertirseto enjoy oneself

dormirseto fall asleep

derretirseto melt

derretirse porto fall madly in love

despedirse deto say goodbye

detenerseto stop

dedicarseto devote oneself to

enojarse / enfadarse (con)to get angry (with)

esforzarseto exert oneself

encontrarse conto meet

equivocarseto be mistaken, be wrong, make a mistake

encargarse deto be in charge (with/of), to take care

echarseto pour (spill) on oneself

ejercitarseto train, to practice

enamorarse deto be in love with, to fall in love with

ganarse la vidato make a living

hacerse/convertirse ento become

irse / marcharseto leave, to go away

imaginarseto imagine, to suppose

lavarseto wash oneself

levantarseto get up

llamarseto be name, to called

maquillarse / pintarse - to put on makeup

molestarseto mad

negarse ato refuse to

ocuparse deto attend to, to be concerned with, to busy oneself with

peinarseto comb one’s hair

preocuparse porto worry

ponerseto put on (clothing), to wear

ponerse (triste, feliz…..)to become

ponerse a + infinitiveto begin to

ponerse en marcha (en camino)to start out, to set out

quejarseto moan (pain), to complain

quedarseto stay, to remain

quitarseto take off (clothing)

reunirseto join in / to meet up

reirse deto laugh at

rendirseto surrender

recostarseto recline, to lie down, to lie back, to rest

sentirseto feel (something inside of you, emotional feelings)

photo credit: TonyFelgueiras  via photopin

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2 comments on “REFLEXIVE VERBS in Spanish -Flex some Spanish Muscle!

  1. Pingback: How to use Verbs like Gustar in Spanish | LetsGoSpanish

  2. Trato de aprender español en clases de educación de adultos. Su blog es muy útil. We are studying reflexive verbs this week in class and this lesson has been especially helpful! Muchas gracias!

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