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Spanish reflexive pronouns

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Reflexive pronouns (pronombres reflexivos) indicate that someone or something is performing an action on or for itself.

Examples: 

  • Cada mañana me ducho antes de irme a la oficina. (Every morning I shower [myself] before going to the office.)
  • Clara se enfadó porque no la invitaron a su boda. (Clara got angry because they did not invite her to their wedding.)

Reflexive pronoun forms

Subject pronounsReflexive pronounEnglish translation
Yomemyself
teyourself

Él

Ella

Usted

se

himself

herself

formal yourself

Nosotros / Nosotrasnosourselves
Vosotros / Vosotrasosyourselves

Ellos / Ellas

Ustedes

se

themselves

formal yourselves

Examples: 

  • Me corté las uñas. (I cut my nails.)
  • ¿Te has arreglado ya? (Have you already got ready?)
  • Se lavan las manos. (They are washing their hands.)
  • Nos despertamos muy tarde. (We woke up very late.)
  • ¿Os habéis aburrido esta tarde? (Have you got bored this afternoon?)

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Structure 

Reflexive pronouns are part of reflexive verbs (verbos reflexivos) and they are generally placed before them

The reflexive pronoun matches the subject of the verb in both number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third).

The subject and object of the verb generally refer to the same entity.

Example: 

  • Yo me baño. (I bathe myself.)
  • Él se arrepintió de lo que hizo. (He regretted what he did.)

enlightenedSometimes the object which receives the action may be different but it refers to something which belongs to the subject (e.g. part of the body).

  Example: 

Lucía se cortó un dedo con el cuchillo. (Lucía cut her finger with a knife.)

Uses

UsesExample
actions related to personal care or daily routinesCada mañana me peino. (Every morning I brush myself/my hair.)
indicating an emotional response to something (get angry, sad, etc.)María se enfadó con su novio. (María got angry with her boyfriend.)
adding emphasis to a regular situationMe comería una tarta entera. (I would eat an entire cake.)

Placement 

Reflexive pronouns generally precede verbs (both simple and compound ones).

Examples: 

Mi novio se ha afeitado y ahora parece un niño. (My boyfriend shaved himself and now he looks like a child.)

enlightenedAnyway, direct object pronoun placement depends on the conjugated form of the verb.

   Pay attention to the following cases: 

  1. negative and affirmative commands
  2. infinitive
  3. gerund

1. Placement in commands

With negative commands, the pronoun precedes the verb which refers to the command

Example: 

¡No te preocupes! (Don't worry!)

With affirmative commandsattach the pronoun to the verb which indicates the command. 

Example: 

¡Lávate* las manos! (Wash your hands!)

_____________________________________________________________________________________

* If the stressed syllable of the verb is the next-to-last one (not counting the pronoun), add the accent mark.

2. Placement with infinitive forms

When used with infinitive forms, the pronoun may occur after the verb and it is attached to it. 

Example: 

Acabo de ducharme. (I have just showered myself.)

enlightened It occurs before the conjugated form of a verb which precedes the infinitive as well. 

   Example: 

Me acabo de levantar. (I have just got up.)

3. Placement with gerund forms

When used with gerund forms, the pronoun may occur after the verb and it is attached to it

Example: 

Estoy maquillandome. (I am putting on makeup.)

enlightened It occurs before the conjugated form of a verb which precedes the gerund as well. 

   Example: 

Mi padre se está afeitando. (My father is shaving himself.)

How to describe your daily routine with reflexive verbs

Reflexive verbEnglish translationExample
acostar(se)to go to bedMi abuela suele acostarse muy temprano. (My grandmother is used to going to bed early.)
afeitar(se)to shave (oneself)Mi padre se afeita cada mañana. (My father shaves [himself] every morning.)
bañar(se)to have a bathLos niños necesitan bañarse. (The children need to have a bath.)
despertar(se) to wake up¿A qué hora te despiertas? (What time do you usually wake up?)
desvestir(se)to get undressedRafael se desvistió y entró en la ducha. (Rafael got undressed and got in the shower.)
duchar(se)to shower (oneself)Acabo de volver del gimnasio. Necesito ducharme. (I have just got back from the gym. I need to shower [myself].)
lavar(se)to wash (oneself)¡Lávate la cara! (Wash your face!)
levantar(se)to get upEsta mañana me he levantado a las nueve. (This morning I got up at nine.)
maquillar(se)to put makeup onDespués de desayunar, me maquillo y salgo de casa. (After breakfast, I usually put my makeup on and leave home.)
peinar(se)to brush (one's hair)Lávate los dientes y peinate antes de salir. (Brush your teeth and brush your hair before going out.)
poner(se)to put on, to wearCreo que me pondré este vestido para salir con Juan. (I think I will wear this dress to go out with Juan.)
secar(se)to dry offCoge la toalla y sécate antes de vestirte. (Take the towel and dry [yourself] before getting dressed.)

Exercises

  1. Spanish reflexive pronoun practice quiz
  2. Spanish reflexive pronouns - Fill in the blanks

Spanish reflexive pronoun practice quiz


Spanish reflexive pronouns - Fill in the blanks


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