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Published on: Grammar Bites

How do we use los verbos reflexivos?

In Spanish, verbs are reflexivos when the subject and the object of an action are the same. This means that it’s an action that we do for ourselves, as opposed to doing something for someone else.

Reflexive verbs are very common, and they can be easily recognized by their -se ending when they are in their infinitive form.

These verbs describe actions that we perform with our bodies to express movement, feelings, or sensations. The majority of the so-called verbos de rutina (routine verbs) are classic examples of verbos reflexivos. Let’s take a look at some popular examples:

  • acostarse, levantarse, despertarse, dormirse, vestirse, desvestirse
  • bañarse, secarse, afeitarse, peinarse, cepillarse, maquillarse
  • irse, quedarse, sentarse, pararse
  • quejarse, sentirse, enojarse, enfermarse
How do we conjugate los verbos reflexivos?
Verbo reflexivo Personal Pronoun ReflexivePronoun ConjugatedVerb
bañarse Yo me baño
te bañas
Él, ella, usted se baña
Nosotros nos bañamos
Vosotros os bañáis
Ellos, ellas, ustedes se bañan

 

As we can see, the actual verb (eg. bañar) will follow the rules of the verbal tense we’re using, and the pronoun will change according to the personal pronoun.

  • Tú te vistes con ropa casual para ir al cine. (para ti misma) –> You dressed (yourself) in casual wear to go to the movies.
  • Yo me pongo las gafas para protegerme del sol. (para mí misma) –> I put on my sunglasses to protect myself from the sun.
  • Nosotros nos sentimos contentos con esta escuela. (nosotros mismos) –> We’re pleased with this school.
  • Ustedes se enojan cuando el gimnasio está lleno. –> You guys get upset when the gym is full.

Compare these two sentences:

Reflexivo: Ella se baña. (Lo hace para sí misma) –> She bathes (herself). [Subject and object are the same = ella].

No reflexivo: Ella baña a su niña. (Lo hace para la niña). –> She bathes her daughter. [Subject and object are different = ella & la niña].

Finally, you’ll notice that many verbs can be made into reflexive by simple adding to it the reflexive pronoun. This can create a subtle difference in meaning or it can be used to emphasize who is doing the action: 

  • Yo lavo la ropa. I wash the clothes.
  • Yo me lavo la ropa. I wash the clothes myself (as opposed to someone else doing the washing).
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