Easy guide to reflexive verbs and pronouns in Spanish

Easy guide to reflexive verbs and pronouns in Spanish

The word “reflexive” means something is directed towards the self. Therefore, “verbos reflexivos” (reflexive verbs) are verbs that indicate that the subject is performing an action on themselves.

Reflexive verbs always go together with reflexive pronouns, always. You can’t have one without the other. Thus, let’s start with the reflexive pronouns.

What are the reflexive pronouns in Spanish?

A reflexive pronoun indicates that the doer and the receiver of the action are the same in a sentence.

In English, the reflexive pronouns end with “self” or “selves.” For example: “himself,” “myself,” “ourselves,” and “themselves”.

In Spanish, there are four reflexive pronouns:

  • “me,”
  • “te,”
  • “se,” and
  • “nos”.

There is a fifth reflexive pronoun used only in Spain “os,” but since we are focusing on Colombian Spanish, we are not including it here.

SubjectReflexive pronoun (Spanish/English)
Yo (I)MeMyself
Tu/Usted (You)TeYourself
Él/Ella (He/She)SeHimself/Herself
Nosotros (We)NosOurselves
Ustedes (You)SeYourself
Ellos/Ellas (They)SeThemselves

Where to place reflexive pronouns in Spanish?

Reflexive pronouns are typically placed before conjugated verbs, even when we use negative or interrogative sentences:

  • Yo me baño todas las noches antes de dormir.
    I take a shower every night before I go to sleep.
  • ¿Te despiertas temprano?
    Do you wake up early?
  • Ella se queda todos los domingos en su casa.
    She stays at home every Sunday.
  • No te preocupes, todo está bien.
    Don’t you worry, everything is fine.

However, as usual, there are exceptions to the rule.

There are three exceptions in which the reflexive pronoun is used after the verb, together with the verb (no spaces)

1. Infinitive forms of the verb

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, reflexive verbs are ALWAYS together with a reflexive pronoun. And when we say “always,” it means “always,” including in the infinitive form of the verb

  • Levantarse

3. Imperative

When using imperatives, the reflexive pronoun is also placed after the verb.

  • ¡Quédate quieto!
    Stay still!
  • ¡Siéntate!
    Sit down!

2. Progressive verbs (-ing)

When using verbs in their progressive form, the reflexive pronoun is also placed after the verb.

  • Estaba duchándome cuando sonó el teléfono.
    I was taking a shower when the phone rang
  • Espera, estoy cepillandome los dientes.
    Wait, I’m brushing my teeth

What are reflexive verbs in Spanish

Now that we have learned how to use reflexive pronouns, let’s move to reflexive verbs.

When to use reflexive verbs in Spanish?

We use reflexive verbs mainly in the following five categories:

1. Verbs that describe daily routines

For example:

  • “Despertarse” (to wake up),
  • “peinarse” (to comb the hair), and
  • “bañarse” (to shower).

2. Verbs that describe motion or movement

For example:

  • “Irse” (to leave), and
  • “moverse” (to move).

3. Verbs that describe emotions and moods

For example:

  • “aburrirse” (to get bored),
  • “preocuparse” (to worry), and
  • “alegrarse” (to rejoice).

4. Verbs that are reciprocals

These verbs are only reflexive in their plural forms and are used when two or more people are performing an action together or doing something to each other.

For example:

  • “casarse” (to get marry),
  • “encontrarse” (to meet)

5. Verbs that are always reflexive

There is a small number of verbs that are always reflexive.

For example:

  • “quejarse” (to complain),
  • “darse cuenta” (to realize),
  • “arrepentirse” (to regret)

How to conjugate reflexive verbs in Spanish?

For conjugating reflexive verbs, you should place the reflexive pronoun before the verb and then conjugate it accordingly.

Let’s see an example with the verb “bañarse” (to shower)

Verb: Bañarse

Yo (I)Me baño
Tú/Usted (You)Te bañas
El/ella (He/She)Se baña
Nosotros / Nosotras (We)Nos bañamos
Ustedes (They)Se bañan
Ellos/Ellas (They)Se bañan

What are the most common reflexive verbs in Spanish?

Lastly, to make your life easier we have prepared a list of the 40 most common reflexive verbs:

  1. Aburrirse – to get bored
  2. Acordarse – to remember
  3. Acostarse – to go to bed
  4. Acostumbrarse a – to get accustomed to (to get use to)
  5. Afeitarse – to shave
  6. Alegrarse – to become (be) happy
  7. Arreglarse – to get ready
  8. Amañarse – Only used in Colombia. It refers to feeling good, happy, and settled in a place
  9. Asustarse – to get or become afraid
  10. Atreverse a – to dare to
  11. Bañarse – to take a bath
  12. Calmarse – to calm down
  13. Cansarse – to get tired of
  14. Casarse – to marry
  15. Cepillase – to brush (hair, teeth..)
  16. Darse cuenta de – to realize
  17. Despedirse de – to say goodbye
  18. Desayunarsse – to eat breakfast
  19. Despertarse – to wake up
  20. Desvestirse – to undress
  21. Divertirse de – to have fun
  22. Dormirse – to go to sleep
  23. Ducharse – to shower
  24. Emocionarse – to get excited
  25. Enamorarse de – to fall in love with
  26. Encontrarse con – to meet with
  27. Enfermarse – to get sick
  28. Enojarse – to get or become angry
  29. Irse – to go (away) or to leave
  30. Levantarse – to get up
  31. Maquillarse – to put makeup on
  32. Moverse – to move oneself, to do or be in charge of
  33. Peinase – to brush or comb hair
  34. Ponerse – to put on (clothing), to get dressed
  35. Preocuparse de – to worry about
  36. Quejarse de – to complain about
  37. Quedarse – to remain/ to stay
  38. Sentarse – to sit down
  39. Sentirse – to feel
  40. Vestirse – to get dressed

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