Reflexive and Transitive Verbs
It's pretty hard to say much in Spanish without using reflexive and transitive verbs. Remember that the action of a reflexive verb reflects back on the subject. In a transitive (nonreflexive) verb, the action usually affects someone or something else. Often this is very obvious. Let's look at some examples:
To say what people's names are, Spanish speakers generally use the reflexive verb llamarse (to call oneself) rather than Mi nombre es. To find out what someone's name is, ask the question ¿Cómo te llamas? or ¿Cómo se llama?
Practice: Transitive or Reflexive?
Translate the following sentences using a transitive verb or its reflexive counterpart as appropriate. Remember that a transitive verb normally affects someone or something other than the subject while the action of a reflexive verb reflects back onto the subject. Then compare your work to the answers in Appendix D.
José usually puts his books on the table.
María puts on good clothes to go to a restaurant.
I don't like to bathe; I shower.
Sometimes we give the dog a bath.
You wash your windows a lot to enjoy the view.
You wash your hands before eating, don't you?
We generally take off our shoes when we enter the house.
My grandparents take things off the chair and I sit down.
Of course, not all transitive verbs have reflexive counterparts, so don't get carried away! Think about whether or not the action is directed toward someone or something else or whether it directly affects the subject. Verbs like
Let's look at some more after-hours activities. Pay attention to which ones are transitive and which are reflexive.
Verbs that Change Meaning
Some verbs actually change meaning when used as reflexives. Sometimes the change is slight, sometimes it's fairly significant. Let's look at a few examples:
Listen carefully to the use of transitive and reflexive verbs in the examples on Track 35. (The examples are not shown here because this is meant to be a more challenging exercise.) Think about the meaning of each and then write an English translation. Compare your sentences to the answers in Appendix D. There may be slight variations, but you should be able to see if you understand the way transitive and reflexive verbs differ in meaning.