HomeQ&AWhat is a reflexive verb? And how is it different from a typical verb?

What is a reflexive verb? And how is it different from a typical verb?

0
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For example, "pasearse." What sets it apart from "comer," or another verb?

5219 views
updated DIC 8, 2009
posted by FlamingPiWalrus

9 Answers

2
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There is no such thing as a reflexive verb.

I'm in 100% agreement, but just so beginner's don't get thoroughly confused, the term reflexive verb is commonly encountered.

The term does not mean that the reflexive verb is not the same verb as the non-reflexive one. Llamar and llamarse are the same verb (llamar). Llamarse, called a reflexive verb, just refers to llamar when used pronominally (in conjunction with a reflexive pronoun). The meaning of the verb when used in conjunction with a reflexive pronoun usually gives a different connotation to the verb, hence, they are commonly referred to as different verbs.

The term reflexive verb is also misleading for another reason. It is called reflexive because it is accompanied by a reflexive pronoun, but that does not meant that the verb is being used reflexively (where the subject receives the action of the verb). The pronominal usage also serves to form a passive usage, an impersonal usage, and several other grammatical functions. Beginner's commonly think when they hear the term reflexive verb that it is a verb being used reflexively which is often not the case.

Just remember that when you hear the term reflexive verb that it is not a different verb than the non-reflexive verb (it is conjugated the same in all tenses and moods)* and that it does not necessarily mean that the verb is being used reflexively in the sense that the verb action is being reflected back onto the subject.

*use of the pronoun with commands can change the spelling of the word when the pronoun is attached to the verb in cases like nosotros commands and vosotros commands where a s or d is dropped when attaching the nos or os reflexive pronouns.

My suggestion: only refer to verbs being used to reflect the action of the verb back on to the subject as reflexive verbs and refer to the others as verbs being used pronominally, but be aware that for many people any verb with the se or a reflexive pronoun is called a reflexive verb.

updated DIC 8, 2009
edited by 0074b507
posted by 0074b507
Great explanation. Clears up a lot of the confusion. - Rolest, DIC 8, 2009
1
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Izan, but I really admire your knowledge and eagerness to help! And if my response was overcritical, then forgive me please.

updated DIC 8, 2009
posted by Issabela
There's nothing to forgive Issa...I agree with what you have said. The question of terminology is a somewhat esoteric subject and should not get in the way of ones ability or desire to learn spanish - Izanoni1, DIC 8, 2009
And they lived happily ever after... Y colorín colorado, este cuento SE ha acabado :) - Issabela, DIC 8, 2009
1
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Hi Issabela,

discussing whether it's a reflexive verb, pronominal verb or a verb that acts like a reflexive is not actually the best answer to "what is a reflexive verb".

I am sorry if I have caused more harm than good by my clumsy wording earlier. I have edited my original post to reflect this. I agree with you that it is not very beneficial to the learner to get hung up on terminology.

For me at least, it makes little sense and can be a bit confusing to refer to all pronominal verbs as "reflexive verbs" because not all pronominal verbs are used to impart reflexive meanings even when they are listed as pronominal verbs. My intention was to show that the "reflexive verb" in most cases is simply the same verb accompanied by a reflexive pronoun. I was not trying to turn the Spanish grammar world on its ear either I was trying to present the information in a somewhat more logical fashion as to the actual functioning of each particular element of speech. I am sorry, however, because it appears that by doing this, I have caused more confusion than I have relieved, and again - for that, I am sorry.

updated DIC 8, 2009
posted by Izanoni1
1
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The term "reflexive verb" is a bit of a misnomer as it is the use of the reflexive pronoun and not the verb itself that imparts the reflexive meaning. The actual meaning of the verb does not necessarily change, for example, between afeitar and afeitarse. Both verb elements mean "to shave." Where the action of the verb actually falls is what imparts a reflexive meaning to the sentence. In this, the reflexive feel of a sentence is due solely to the object of the verb (in this case the reflexive pronoun) A verb is used reflexively when the object of a sentence is the same entity as the subject.

Furthermore, a so-called "reflexive verb" (more accurately termed a pronominal verb - a verb accompanied by a pronoun) does not always carry a reflexive meaning. It can also be used to carry a reciprocal meaning or to emphasize the entire action (see link below).

Have a look at this thread which also links back to all of the relevant reference articles: Pronomial verbs/reflexive pronouns

updated DIC 8, 2009
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
Not to breate (you know a lot more than I, with 11K) but it might be misleading to say there is no such thing as a reflexive verb. It might confuse the person asking the question. - Rolest, DIC 7, 2009
I tried to clear up some of that confusion. Great minds think alike. - - 0074b507, DIC 7, 2009
Hmm... as far as I know, there are czasowniki zwrotne in Polish, les verbes pronominaux in French, reflexive Verben in German, los verbos reflexivos in Spanish... - Issabela, DIC 8, 2009
I used to learn about reflexive verbs at school (Polish, German, French) - Issabela, DIC 8, 2009
Thanks qfreed. I will edit this post so as not to confuse - Izanoni1, DIC 8, 2009
1
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I can't argue with you about the terminology used by RAE, also your knowledge of grammar terminology is definitely greater than mine

However, I found out that in English both terms are used and so they are in Spanish. And then it seems that is simply the matter of terminology. But saying that "they don't exist" when it's a commonly used term in grammar books by scholars and profesors will confuse the reader more than stating that "they're also referred to as pronominal verbs". But it's just my oppinion, and the choice is not mine to make, but other students' to whom the matter of such verbs is completely new and probably confusing (especially if there is no such thing in their native language). And to me, discussing whether it's a reflexive verb, pronominal verb or a verb that acts like a reflexive is not actually the best answer to "what is a reflexive verb". But I've heard people arguing about which is more correct to say: continuous or progressive tense, so I guess this could also be a subject of an overnight discussion wink

updated DIC 8, 2009
posted by Issabela
Simple Issabela - continuous and progressive both refer to the same thing. End of story. - ian-hill, DIC 8, 2009
That's what I do know :)) - Issabela, DIC 8, 2009
1
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be aware that for many people any verb with the se or a reflexive pronoun is called a reflexive verb

That's the case if there are no reflexive verbs in your mother tongue or they are very infrequent. And I have to disagree with Izan on this one, because the term "reflexive verb" is used in many languages in terms of grammar, e.g. Spanish or Polish, where such verbs are very common. I don't think that the authors of two grammar books I've got on my shelf are mistaken (and they do write about reflexive verbs).

A verb is used reflexively when the direct object of a sentence refers to the same thing or person as the subject. In Spanish, this requires the use of reflexive pronouns.

It's a matter of the verb's structure. And often the meaning changes when you use the reflexive pronoun. In my language, we only use "sie", which is translated to Spanish "se" (regardless of the person performing the action) - thanks to this we can say "se nació" - she was born, and "nació" - she gave birth. Of course, in Spanish "nacer" is not a reflexive verb, but "murirse" does exist.

To give a better Spanish example, let's look at "cocinar" and "cocinarse":

¿Qué cocinas? - What are you cooking?

¿Qué se cocina aquí? - What's cooking here?

updated DIC 8, 2009
posted by Issabela
0
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delete please

updated DIC 8, 2009
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
Iza - I know you like lengthy explanations but few will read fully what you have written and for that reason it will create more confusion than it is worth. - ian-hill, DIC 8, 2009
Is this your way of saying "enough already?" - Izanoni1, DIC 8, 2009
0
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I shaved or I shaved [myself] pronoun used as an object to refer subject of a verb! Sorry just an English hint.

updated DIC 8, 2009
edited by Issabela
posted by 0063492c
Please use the correct spelling and capitalization in your posts. People come here to lear Spanish and English - Issabela, DIC 8, 2009
0
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Go to this site. Go under "More". Go to "Reference". Then click on "Spanish Verbs". Then click on "Reflexive Verbs". The direct link is http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/100021/reflexive-verbs They have an excellent explanation there. Rolest

updated DIC 7, 2009
posted by Rolest
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