Reflexive Verbs

Lots of verbs in Spanish are reflexive, meaning that the action of the verb reflects back on the subject. For example, “I look at myself in the mirror” is a reflexive form in English. The Spanish equivalent of “to look at oneself” is mirarse. Reflexive verbs in Spanish use pronouns in place of the words “myself, yourself, ourselves,” etc. Let's start by having a look at the complete conjugation of -ar, -er, and -ir verbs in Spanish: mirarse, ponerse, and vestirse.

The infinitive form of a reflexive verb takes the pronoun se. For example, if you look for “wake up” in the dictionary, you'll find the Spanish translation listed as despertarse. In constructions that take a conjugated verb plus a reflexive infinitive, use the pronoun that relates to the subject of the conjugated verb: Voy a levantarme, Vas a despertarte, etc.

Reflexive Conjugations

Mirarse

Ponerse

Vestirse

Subject Pronoun

(to look at oneself)

(to put on)

(to get dressed)

yo

me miro

me pongo

Remember the stem change in these conjugations: e > i

me visto

te miras

te pones

te vistes

él, ella, usted

se mira

se pone

se viste

nosotros

nos miramos

nos ponemos

nos vestimos

vosotros

os miráis

os ponéis

os vestís

ellos, ellas, ustedes

se miran

se ponen

se visten

Notice that the verbs themselves are conjugated like any other verb. The only difference is that reflexive verbs include reflexive pronouns. Because the reflexive pronoun and the verb conjugation make it very clear who the subject is, you rarely use subject pronouns as well. However, it is common to include the subject pronouns for the third-person singular and plural conjugations for clarification since they all have the same reflexive pronoun: se. Remember that you can always use subject pronouns in any conjugation for emphasis: Tú te pones mucho perfume, pero yo nunca me pongo perfume (You put on a lot of perfume, but I never put on perfume).

Reflexive Verbs in Your Daily Life

Many of your daily activities are expressed with reflexive verbs in Spanish. Let's have a look at some more of them:

  • despertarse

    These verbs are stem-changing verbs like vestirse-Despertarse and sentarse change from e > ie, acostarse and dormirse change from o > ue. Remember that stem-changing verbs change in all conjugations of the simple present except the nosotros and vosotros forms.

    (wake up)

  • levantarse (get up, stand up)

  • lavarse (wash oneself)

  • bañarse (take a bath)

  • ducharse (take a shower)

  • secarse (dry oneself)

  • cepillarse los dientes (brush one's teeth)

  • afeitarse (shave oneself)

  • peinarse (comb one's hair)

  • maquillarse (put on makeup)

  • arreglarse (get ready)

  • sentarse (seat oneself)

  • quitarse (take off)

  • acostarse (go to bed)

  • dormirse (fall asleep)

  • Reflexive Verbs

    TRACK 33

    Listen to the examples of reflexive verbs in action as you look at them in the text. Repeat each sentence after you hear it.

    Me levanto todos los días a las 5:30.

    (I get up every day at 5:30.)

    Tú siempre te arreglas muy bien.

    (You are always well put together.)

    Mi mamá se sienta para maquillarse.

    (My mother sits down to put on her makeup.)

    Nos cepillamos los dientes tres veces al día.

    (We brush our teeth three times a day.)

    ¿A qué hora se acuestan ustedes?

    (What time do you go to bed?)

    You don't need to use possessive adjectives with reflexive verbs like lavarse. To say you wash your hands or hair, simply say Me lavo las manos (el pelo). The reflexive pronoun makes it obvious whose hands are being washed.

    Practice: Reflexive Verb Conjugations

    Now it's your turn. Use the cues to make complete sentences using reflexive verbs. Check your answers in Appendix D when you're done.

    • Carmen / generalmente / despertarse / muy temprano

    • bañarse / yo / y lavarse el pelo / cada mañana

    • Anita / maquillarse / cuidadosamente / y entonces / vestirse

    • Mi hermano y yo / afeitarse / todos los días

    • ¿lavarse los dientes / tú / después de desayunar?

    • Adán / siempre / vestirse / elegantemente

    • ¿ustedes / quitarse / los lentes de contacto / antes de ducharse?

    • los niños / ponerse / ropa cómoda / para jugar

    • yo / sentarse / en el medio / cuando / ir al cine

    • ellos / normalmente / acostarse / temprano

    When the adverbial phrases antes de (before) and después de (after) are followed by a verb, the verb is in the infinitive form: A veces me duermo en el sofá antes de acostarme (Sometimes I fall asleep on the sofa before going to bed). In the case of reflexive verbs, remember to attach the appropriate reflexive pronoun to the infinitive.

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