Reflexive verbs in Spanish: A guide
Published on December 2, 2022 / Updated on January 8, 2024
Are you about to embark on a journey to learn reflexive verbs in Spanish? At first glance, this part of Spanish grammar may seem like a big mountain to tackle. If the way we conjugate reflexive verbs in Spanish is different from that of your native language, it might seem difficult.
In reality, reflexive verbs are so common in everyday Spanish that you may already be acquainted with some without realizing it. That’s okay! We are here to remind you of what you know and build from there.
We’ve prepared this guide to help you figure reflexive verbs out. You’ll see that the mountain is more of a small hill in this case.
A reflexive verb in Spanish is used when the subject and object of our sentence is the same person or entity. We use these verbs to indicate that a person or thing has done something for or to themselves.
In English, these actions are tied to pronouns like myself, her/himself, themselves, etc. Take a look at this sentence:
In this sentence, both the person doing the introduction (the subject) and the one being introduced (the object) is Maddy. She performs the action at or to herself. Therefore, we’re using a reflective verb in Spanish.
Tip: If you need to figure out when to use reflexive verbs in Spanish, ask yourself this question: are the subject and the object of the sentence the same person or thing? If so, then we’ve got a reflexive verb on our hands.
So we know that Spanish verbs end in –ar, -er or -ir. However, reflexive verbs in their infinitive form do not.
To identify infinitive reflexive verbs, just check the ending. Is there -se after the usual verb’s ending? Bingo. It’s a reflexive verb. The -se indicates that the action is being done to the subject itself. For example: bañar-se (to bathe oneself), querer-se (to love oneself), dormir-se (to put oneself to sleep).
Before we learn how to conjugate reflexive verbs in Spanish, we need to review the reflexive pronouns in the endings.
|Usted (formal ‘you’)
|Él, ella (he, she)
|Nosotros, nosotras (masculine ‘we’, feminine ‘we’)
|Ustedes (plural ‘you’)
|Ellos, ellas (masculine ‘they’, feminine ‘they’)
Okay, let’s get into the good stuff below with conjugation.
Let’s say we want to express that Laura wakes herself up every day at 7:00 a.m. The reflexive verb here is levantarse (to wake oneself). To conjugate this verb, we can follow these steps:
Complete the rest of the sentence: Laura se levanta todos los días a las 7:00 a.m.
In some cases, the pronoun doesn’t have to go immediately before the reflexive verb. In special cases, it can appear in different word order.
|To feel bored
|Me aburro en las tardes (I feel bored in the afternoons)
|Lucía se está bañando (Lucía is showering)
|Me caí en la calle (I fell down on the street)
|To feel tired
|Nos cansamos de correr (we got tired from running)
|To have fun
|¿Se divirtió Sofía? (Did Sofía have fun?)
|Me voy a dormir (I’m going to sleep)
|To fall in love
|Él se enamoró de ella (he fell in love with her)
|¿Te vas ya? (Are you leaving now?)
|To wake up/get up
|Me levantaré temprano (I’ll wake up early)
|To be named
|Me llamo Amanda (I’m named Amanda)
|To get lost
|Ustedes se perdieron (you got lost)
|To sit down
|No me voy a sentar (I won’t sit down)
|Los chicos se sienten contentos (the guys feel happy)
|To dress up
|¿Usted se vestirá? (Are you going to get dressed?)
As you can see, reflexive verbs are particularly useful when we want to describe routines, movements, feelings or moods. This is why you’ll hear them often in everyday conversations.
See? The mountain was not too large to overcome! You now know when to use reflexive verbs in Spanish and how to conjugate them. If you focus on who is performing the action and who is the direct object of that action, you can identify a reflexive verb. Reflex away!