Grammar GuideVerbsReflexive Verbs and Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive Verbs and Reflexive Pronouns

Quick Answer

A reflexive pronoun (pronombre reflexivo) is used as part of a reflexive verb (verbo reflexivo) to indicate that someone or something is performing an action on or for itself.

Reflexive Pronouns in Use

Many actions related to personal care or daily routines are reflexive, but other verbs can be reflexive as well. In the sentences below, the subject performs the action on itself, and the subject and object of the verb refer to the same entity.

Me ducho cada mañana.
I shower every morning.
Te peinas antes de salir.
You brush your hair before going out.
Se hablaba.
He was talking to himself.
Yo me veo en el espejo.
I see myself in the mirror.

Now, compare two sentences in which one is reflexive and one is not. In the reflexive sentence, the subject and object refer to the same entity.

Yo me lavo.
I wash myself.Yo (I) is the subject of of the verb lavar (wash) and me (myself) is the object.
Not Reflexive
Yo lavo el perro.
I wash the dog.Yo (I) is the subject of of the verb lavar (wash) and el perro (the dog) is the object.

Match your Pronouns

When the object of the verb is the same entity as the subject, you will need to use a reflexive pronoun that matches the subject of the verb in both number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third). In the first table below, you'll find the different forms Spanish reflexive pronouns take.

Reflexive Pronoun Forms

PersonSingular PronounsPlural Pronouns
First Personme (matches with yo)nos (matches with nosotros)
Second Personte (matches with ) OR se (matches with usted)os (matches with vosotros) OR se (matches with ustedes)
Third Personse (matches with él or ella)se (matches with ellos or ellas)

Just to make sure you've got these down, the next table shows you the Spanish reflexive pronoun forms, along with example sentences showing how they may be used. Remember, the reflexive pronoun will always be the same number and person as the subject of the sentence.

Reflexive pronouns have the same forms as indirect object pronouns, with the exception of se, which is used instead of le and les for the third person.

Reflexive Pronoun Forms and Examples

Number and PersonReflexive PronounSpanishEnglish
Singular, First
Me lavo.
I wash myself.
Singular, Second (Informal)
Te lavas.
You wash yourself.
Singular, Second (Formal)
Se lava.
You wash yourself.
Singular, Third
Se lava.
He washes himself./She washes herself./It washes itself.
Plural, First
Nos lavamos.
We wash ourselves.
Plural, Second
Se lavan.
You (all) wash yourselves.
Plural, Second (Informal)
Os laváis.
You (all) wash yourselves.
Plural, Third
Se lavan.
They wash themselves.

More Examples of Reflexive Pronouns and Verbs

As you now know, reflexive verbs require the use of reflexive pronouns to indicate that the direct object of the verb is also the subject (in other words, the subject is performing the action on himself or herself). Check out a few examples with verbs that are commonly reflexive.

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 take our gloves off.)
despertarse (to wake up)Se despiertan a las seis cada mañana. (They wake up at six o’clock every morning.)

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

to see one’s self
to talk to one’s self
to write to one’s self
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. In these cases, the reflexive pronoun is not normally translated directly into English, but it often adds a sense of doing something more completely or thoroughly.

Comí el pastel.
I ate the cake.
Me comí el pastel.
I ate up the cake/I ate the whole cake.
Study it.
Really study it./Study it thoroughly.

Reflexive Pronoun Placement

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

Yo me quito los guantes.
I take off my gloves.
te afeitas la cara.
You shave your face.
No te pegues.
Don't hit yourself.
No se preocupe.
Don’t worry yourself.

Reflexive pronouns are attached to the end of affirmative commands. For compound verbs like the present progressive, the pronoun can either be attached to the end of the infinitive or present participle or go before the conjugated verb.

Quítate el sombrero.
Take off your hat.
Estoy duchándome. or Me estoy duchando.I am showering.
Voy a sentarme. or 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 give you an idea of the kinds of verbs that can be reflexive.

aburrirse (de)
to get bored (with)
to wake up
enojarse (con)
to get mad (at)
to take off
acordarse de
to remember
to uncover
to get better
to go to bed
to get undressed
to dry off
to shave
disgustarse (de)
to become upset (about)
to put on makeup
to sit down
alegrarse (de)
to be glad (about)
to distract oneself
to look at oneself
to bathe
to enjoy oneself
olvidarse (de)
to forget (about)
to get up
to brush
to go to sleep
to comb one's hair
to cover up oneself
convertirse en
to become
to shower
to twist
to become ill
to try on
to get dressed
to say good-bye
to go crazy
to put on
to become

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