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Introduction to Reflexive Verbs
The term reflexive verb describes a large class of
verbs in Spanish whose subject acts on itself – does
the action to itself. For example:
Tina combs her mother’s hair.
Tina combs her (own) hair.
In sentence one (i), Tina is the subject; the verb is
combs; and the object is her mom’s hair. In
sentence two (ii), the subject is Tina; the verb is
combs and the object is her own hair. Sentence two
(ii) would require the use of a reflexive verb as
Tina does the action to herself.
Reflexive verbs show what a person does
to him/herself. These verbs are easily
identified as they have se at the end.
Reflexive verbs also use reflexive
pronouns which refer to the same person
or thing as the subject.
The reflexive pronouns are:
Se himself, herself, yourself (formal)
os yourselves(informal in Spain)
se themselves, yourselves (formal)
The reflexive object pronoun precedes the conjugated verb.
Before the conjugated verb:
(1) Me acuesto a las diez y media cada noche.
I go to bed at 10:30 each night.
(2) Mi familia y yo nos desayunamos a las siete cada mañana
My family and I have breakfast at 7:00 every morning.
• In the two examples above, the reflexive pronouns (me and nos) go before the
• conjugated verbs.
The reflexive verb is however attached to the infinitive
and to the present participle of verbs. Examples:
With the infinitive:
(1) Yo voy a cepillarme los dientes.
I am going to brush my teeth.
(2) Tú vas a cepillarte los dientes.
You are going to brush your teeth.
*In the two examples above, the reflexive pronouns ‘me’
and ‘te’ are attached to the infinitive.
With the present participle:
(1) Yo estoy cepillándome los dientes.
I am brushing my teeth.
(2) Carlos está cepillándose.
Carlos is brushing his teeth.
* The reflexive pronouns ‘me’ and ‘se’ are attached to
the present participles.
Lavarse las manos – to wash one’s hands
Yo me lavo las manos. Nosotros nos lavan las manos
Tú te lavas las manos Vosotros os laváis las manos
Ella se lava las manos Ellos
Ud. Ellas se lavan las manos
List of Reflexive Verbs
1. ponerse + article of clothing – to put on
2. bañarse – to bathe
3. ducharse – to (take a) shower
4. cepillarse los dientes – to brush one’s teeth
5. afeitarse – to shave
6. peinarse – to comb one’s hair
7. levantarse – to get up
8. despertarse (e-i) – to wake up
List of Reflexive Verbs
1. acostarse (o-ue) – to go to bed
2. dormirse (o-ue) to fall asleep
3. vestirse (e-i) – to get dressed
4. cortarse el pelo – to cut one’s hair
5. desayunarse – to have breakfast
6. almorzarse – to have lunch
7. enojarse – to get upset
8. burlarse de – to laugh at
9. quejarse – to complain