Overview

Reflexive pronouns work with a reflexive verb to indicate that a person is performing the action toward or for him- or herself. These types of verbs are not very common in English, but are used frequently in Spanish. Many actions related to personal care or daily routines are reflexive, but other verbs can be reflexive as well.

  • Me ducho cada mañana. (I shower (myself) every morning.)
  • Te peinas el pelo. (You brush your hair (yourself).)
  • Se hablaba.  (He was talking to himself.)
  • Me veo en el espejo. (I see myself in the mirror.)

The subject is performing the action on him- or herself, making the object of the verb, the same as the subject. Compare two sentences in which one is reflexive and one is not.

  • I wash myself. (Me lavo.) - myself is the object of wash
  • I wash the dog. (Lavo el perro.) - the dog is the object of wash

When the object of the verb is the same person as the subject, you will need to use a reflexive pronoun that matches the subject of the verb in both number (singular, plural) and person (1st, 2nd, 3rd).

  • Me lavo. (I wash myself.)
  • Te lavas. (You wash yourself.)
  • Se lava. (He washes himself./She washes herself./It washes itself./You wash yourself.)
  • Nos lavamos. (We wash ourselves.)
  • Os laváis. (You wash yourselves.)
  • Se lavan(They wash themselves./You wash yourselves.)

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns have almost the same forms as indirect object pronouns except se is used in place of le and les for the third person. The reflexive pronoun will always be the same person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (singular, plural) as the subject of the sentence.

Reflexive Pronoun Forms

  Singular Plural
1st person me (to, for, from, or off myself) nos (to, for, from, or off ourselves)
2nd person te (to, for, from, or off yourself) os (to, for, from, or off yourselves)
3rd person se (to, for, from, or off himself, herself, itself, yourself) se (to, for, from, or off themselves, yourselves)

Reflexive Pronoun Uses

Reflexive verbs will require the use of reflexive pronouns to indicate that the direct object of the verb is also the subject, that the subject is performing the action on him- or her-self. Notice that the reflexive pronoun has the same person as the verb ending.

  • lavarse (to wash one’s self) - Me lavo las manos. (I wash my hands.)
  • sacarse (to take something off one’s self) - Nos sacamos los guantes. (We our gloves off (ourselves).)
  • despertarse (to wake up) - Se despiertan a las seis cada mañana. (They wake themselves up at six o’clock every morning.)

As mentioned before, you can also add reflexive pronouns to verbs not regularly reflexive verbs in order to make them reflexive.

  • verse (to see one’s self)
  • hablarse (to talk to one’s self)
  • escribirse (to write to one’s self)
  • comprarse (to buy (something) for one’s self)

Reflexive verbs can also be used to indicate an emotional response to something. When a person becomes angry, sad, happy, etc., you can express this by using reflexive verbs.

  • Me enojé rápidamente. (I got angry quickly.)
  • Te alegras de hablar español. (It makes you happy to speak Spanish.)
  • Se aburre en la clase de matemáticas. (He gets bored in Math class.)

Reflexive pronouns can also be used to add emphasis to a seemingly regular situation. The pronouns are not normally translated directly into English, but the sense of something extra is there in Spanish.

  • Comí el pastel. (I ate the cake.)
  • Me comí el pastel. (I ate up the cake/I ate the whole cake.)
  • Estúdialo. (Study it.)
  • Estúdiatelo. (Really study it./Study it thoroughly.)

Reflexive Pronoun Placement

Reflexive pronouns are placed immediately before simple conjugated verbs and negative commands.

  • sacarse - Yo me saco los guantes. (I take off my gloves.)
  • afeitarse - te afeitas la cara. (You shave your face.)
  • acostarse - Ellas se acuestan. (They go to bed.)
  • escribirse - No se escriba notas.  (Don’t write notes to yourself.)

Reflexive Pronouns are attached to affirmative commands and in the case of compound verbs (present progressive, ir+a+infinitive, etc.) the pronoun can either be attached to the infinitive or present participle or go before the conjugated verb.

  • ducharhse - Estoy duchándome. / Me estoy duchando. (I am showering (myself).)
  • quitarse - Quítate el sombrero. (Take off your hat.)
  • sentarse - Voy a sentarme. / Me voy a sentar. (I am going to sit (myself) down.)

Reflexive Verb Examples

Below is a list of common reflexive verbs. This is not a complete list, but rather a reference to help you understand which kinds of verbs are reflexive.

aburrirse (de) (to get bored with) despertarse (to wake up) enojarse (con) (to get mad about) quitarse (to take off)
acordarse (de) (to remember) destaparse (to uncover) irse (to leave) reponerse (to get better)
acostarse (to go to bed) desvestirse (to get undressed) limarse (las uñas) (to file) secarse (to dry off)
afeitarse (to shave) disgustarse (de) (to become upset about) maquillarse (to put on makeup) sentarse (to sit down)
alegrarse (de) (to be glad about) distraerse (to distract oneself) mirarse (to look at oneself) sostenerse (to support)
bañarse (to bathe) divertirse (con) (to enjoy oneself with) olvidarse (de) (to forget about) subirse (to get up)
cepillarse (to brush) dormirse (to go to sleep) peinarse (to comb one's hair) taparse (to cover up oneself)
convertirse (en) (to become) ducharse (to shower) pintarse (los labios) (to put on lipstick) torcerse (to twist)
desayunarse (to eat breakfast) enfermarse (to become ill) probarse (to try on) vestirse (to get dressed)
despedirse (to say good-bye) enloquecerse (to go crazy) ponerse (to put on) volverse (to become)

Reflexive Verbs with Meaning Changes

Making a verb reflexive can change its meaning in ways that you wouldn’t find very logical. Some are more subtle than others, while some are quite different. Some of these verbs are listed below.

abonar to pay money abonarse to subscribe to (a magazine, newspaper, etc.)
abrir to open abrirse to open up (confide in someone)
acordar to agree/to decide acordarse to remember
acusar to accuse acusarse to confess
callar to be quiet callarse to become quiet
cerrar to close cerrarse to close oneself off emotionally
combinar to combine combinarse to take turns
dormir to sleep dormirse to fall asleep
ir to go irse to go away
llevar to carry llevarse to take away
poner to put ponerse to put on/to wear
salir to leave salirse to leave unexpectedly/to leak

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