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When to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish

When to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish?

Let’s learn how and when to use reflexive verbs in the Spanish language.

When to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish

Using Me, Te, Se, Nos, Os in Spanish

Note: A reflexive verb in Spanish is when the subject and the object are the same.

I clean myself.
subject: I
verb: clean
object: myself


Since the subject and object are the same, the verb is reflexive.

I clean the car.
subject: I
verb: clean
object: car

Since the subject and object are different, the verb is not reflexive.


Note: When a verb is reflexive, the infinitive ends in “se”

limpiar
to clean (non-reflexive)

limpiarse
to clean oneself (reflexive)

oler
to smell (non-reflexive)

olerse
to smell oneself (reflexive)


Note: When you learned to conjugate regular verbs, you needed to learn a set of pronouns called “subject pronouns.”

Limpiar (to clean) (Present Tense)

yo limpio
 limpias
él, ella, usted limpia
nosotros(as) limpiamos
vosotros(as) limpiáis
ellos(as), ustedes limpian


Note: To learn to conjugate reflexive verbs, you need to learn a different set of pronouns called “reflexive pronouns.”
These pronouns are positioned before the verb, while the ending
“se” is dropped and the verb is conjugated normally.

e.g.

limpiarse

yo me limpio – I clean (myself)

tú te limpias – you clean (yourself) (informal)

él se limpia – he cleans (himself)

ella se limpia – she cleans (herself)

usted se limpia – you clean (yourself) (formal)

nosotros nos limpiamos – we clean (ourselves)

nosotras nos limpiamos – we clean (ourselves) (feminine)

vosotros os limpiáis – you-all clean (yourselves) (informal)

vosotras os limpiáis – you-all clean (yourselves) (informal, feminine)

ustedes se limpian – you-all clean (yourselves)(formal)

ellos se limpian – they clean (themselves)

ellas se limpian – they clean (themselves) (feminine)


Note: The reflexive pronouns are not subject pronouns; rather they are object pronouns.

me (myself)
te (yourself)
se (himself, herself, yourself)
nos (ourselves)
os (yourselves)
se (themselves, yourselves)

Note: The purpose of the reflexive object pronouns is to show that the action of the verb remains with the subject.

Ana se prepara la sopa. (for herself)

Ana prepares the soup.
(reflexive)

Ana prepara la sopa.  (for others)
Ana prepares the soup. (non-reflexive)


Tip: When referring to body parts, use the definite article, thus “la cara”, not “su cara”

learn reflexive verbs in Spanish

When to Use Reflexive verbs | Spanish 2

Note: When the sentence has two verbs, the pronoun can be placed directly before the conjugated verb or attached to the end of the infinitive.

e.g.

Te quieres ver. – You want to see yourself.

Quieres
verte.


Paola se necesita lavar el pelo – Paola needs to wash her hair.

Paola necesita
lavarse el pelo.


Ahora Paola se puede cepillar los dientes – Paola can brush her teeth now.

Ahora Paola puede
cepillarse los dientes


Note: Whenever a verb directly follows a preposition, it remains in the infinitive form. For reflexive verbs, the ending “-se” changes to agree with the subject.

e.g.

Antes de cepillarmeyo desayuno.- Before brushing, I have breakfast

Antes de cepillarte desayunas- Before brushing, you have breakfast

Antes de cepillarsela chica desayuna.- Before brushing, the girl has breakfast

Antes de cepillarnosnosotros desayunamos.- Before brushing, we had breakfast

Antes de cepillarosvosotros desayunáis – Before brushing, you have breakfast

Antes de cepillarselos chicos desayunan.- Before brushing, the boys have breakfast

 

For some verbs, the meaning changes when they are used reflexively.

aburrir – to bore

aburrir
se to be bored

acordar – to agree

acordar
se de – to remember

acostar – to put to bed

acostar
se to go to bed

casar – to perform a marriage ceremony

casar
se con – to become married to someone

despedir – to fire

despedir
se de – to say goodbye

dormir – to sleep

dormir
se
to fall asleep

ir – to go

ir
se to go away, to leave

morir – to die (abruptly, as of an accident, war, etc.)

morir
se to die (as from natural causes; also “to die” figuratively)

negar – to deny

negar
se a – to refuse

parecer – to seem

parecer
se a – to resemble

poner – to put

poner
se to put on

probar – to try, to taste

probar
se to try on

quitar – to take away

quitar
se to take off


Note: A few verbs are always used reflexively.

arrepentirse (e:ie) – to repent

atrever
se a – to dare

dar
se cuenta de – to realize

jactar
se de – to boast

quejar
se de – to complain about

suicidar
se to commit suicide

 Read more about the Spanish grammar

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