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5.17: Los verbos reflexivos

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    Reflexive verbs

    In the examples below, pay special attention to the reflexive pronouns and the conjugation endings noted in blue.

    Someone waking up

    Pedro se despierta a las ocho de la mañana.

    Someone showering

    Después se ducha.

    a man shaving

    Finalmente se afeita.

    In Spanish, to talk about some of the actions that describe daily routine or personal care (getting up, taking a shower, getting dressed, etc.), we use reflexive verbs. The pronoun "se" (in blue) attached to an infinitive verb (levantarse, peinarse, despertarse…), indicates that a verb is reflexive.


    Reflexive verbs require reflexive pronouns to indicate that the subject of the sentence receives the action of the verb (oneself): me, te, se, nos, os, se. The reflexive pronoun and the conjugation ending must agree. Analyze the conjugations below paying special attention to the reflexive pronouns and conjugation endings in blue.

                            despertarse (e:ie)                                             vestirse (e:i)

                            reflexive arrows.png                                                                                reflexive arrows.png
                             me despierto          nos despertamos                  me visto           nos vestimos

                            te despiertas          os despertáis                       te vistes           os vestís

                            se despierta           se despiertan                       se viste            se visten

    Both the verb ending and the reflexive pronoun agree with the subject. 

        reflexive arrows.png                                          reflexive arrows.png
    Yo me pongo los zapatos.         Vosotros os despertáis temprano.         

                            I put on my shoes (myself).       You (all) wake up early (yourselves). 

    ¡Ojo!: Unlike English, parts of the body or clothing are not used with the possessive pronouns, instead, use definite or indefinite articles instead.

    Common reflexive verbs

    In the chart below, the "se" ending in blue indicates that the verb is reflexive.

    Verbo Inglés Verbo Inglés
    acordarse (de) (o:ue) to remember llamarse to be named
    acostarse (o:ue) to go to bed maquillarse to put on makeup
    afeitarse to shave peinarse to comb one's hair
    bañarse to bathe; to take a bath ponerse (+noun) to put on (+item)
    cepillarse (los dientes, el pelo) to brush (one's teeth, hair) ponerse (+adj.) to become (+adj.)
    despertarse (e:ie) to wake up probarse (o:ue) to try on
    dormirse (o:ue) to fall asleep quedarse to remain; to stay
    ducharse to take a shower quitarse to take off (something)
    enojarse to get angry secarse (las manos, el pelo) to dry (one's hands, one's hair)
    irse to go away; to leave sentarse (e:ie) to sit down
    lavarse (las manos, el pelo) to wash (one's hands, hair) sentirse (e:ie) to feel
    levantarse to get up vestirse (e:i) to get dressed

    ¡Ojo!: Many of the reflexive verbs can be also used as a non-reflexive verb. The meaning will change. Study the following pairs of sentences and the change in meaning created by the addition of the reflexive pronouns. In the example below, non-reflexive verbs are indicated in bold, and the reflexive verbs are in bold with the reflexive pronouns and conjugation endings in blue.

    Carlos lava su coche.

    Carlos lava su coche.

    Carlos washes his car.

    Carlos se lava las manos.

    Carlos se lava las manos.

     Carlos washes his hands.

    Yo le seco el pelo a Helga.

    Yo le seco el pelo a Helga.

           I dry Helga's hair.

    Yo me seco el pelo.

    Yo me seco el pelo.

         I dry my hair.