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How to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish – Easy-to-Follow Guide with Reflexive Verbs List


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Do you need help learning how to use reflexive verbs in Spanish? You’ve come to the right place.

In this post, you’ll find:

  • an explanation of what reflexive verbs are and how to use reflexive verbs in Spanish
  • a list of common reflexive verbs in Spanish
  • Spanish reflexive verbs conjugation
  • examples of Spanish sentences with reflexive verbs
  • the Spanish reflexive pronouns

Wait! Don’t run away just yet. Reflexive verbs aren’t some alien concept or the strange cousin of the subjunctive tense. In fact, if you know a few words in basic Spanish, you probably already know at least one reflexive verb.

Not convinced? Let me show you.

¡Hola! Me llamo Benny. (“Hi! I’m Benny.”)

You probably didn’t need the translation, did you? And if you already know the verb llamarse, then you already know a reflexive verb.

See? It’s not rocket science. And I’ll keep things simple with easy explanations like this through the whole post.

So, jump onto the spaceship! Direction: Planet “Reflexive Verbs, Spanish Version.”

¡Vamos! (“Let’s go!”)

Reflexive Verbs in Spanish: What Is a Reflexive Verb?

While we’re on our way to this foreign planet, let me explain what we’ll have to deal with once we land.

Reflexive verbs are those whose subject and direct object are the same person.

Let’s kick grammar out of the hatch for a second and translate that into everyday “earth person” language: with reflexive verbs, the doer of the action and the receiver of the action are the same.

Still sounds like Martian? Let’s simplify it even more with an example: “I wash myself.”

As you can see in this sentence, the subject (“I”) realizes the action (“wash”) which is received by “myself”… The same person who’s doing the action.

How would that look like in Spanish? Let’s use the same verb we used as the English example, Me lavo, for this explanation.

First thing, remember subject pronouns (like “I” or “you”) are rarely used in Spanish. They are implied in the tense of the verb. As you can see, there is no subject pronoun in the above sentence, but I’ll include it to make the explanation clearer. This leaves us with Yo me lavo.

In Yo me lavo, the subject pronoun is yo (“I”), the action is lavar (“wash”), and the reflexive pronoun is me (“myself”).

Can you spot the differences with the English verb phrase? I have a few to tell you about.

How to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish

Unlike English, the reflexive pronoun comes before the verb in Spanish. And this is not the only weird thing about reflexive pronouns.

Spanish reflexive verbs include a reflexive pronoun in infinitive mode: se.

Se works as a suffix and is attached to the verb. It’s the only way you have to identify a reflexive verb when it is in infinitive mode.
Many Spanish reflexive verbs become different verbs when used without their reflexive pronoun. Look at the example I gave you in the introduction: llamarse (“to be called”) becomes llamar (“to call”).

We have no time for more elaboration. One of the signals in the cockpit has just come to life, warning us that we’re getting close to our destination. We better speed things up and prepare for landing.

The first process we have to activate is the knowledge of Spanish reflexive pronouns.

Spanish Reflexive Pronouns

Can you remember the 13 Spanish subject pronouns from your first Spanish astronaut drills? There are almost twice as many of them as there are English subject pronouns.

yo I
you, informal singular
vos you, informal singular in som Latin American countries
él / ella / usted he / she / you, formal singular
nosotros / nosotras we, masculine / we, feminine
vosotros / vosotras you, informal plural only in Spain, masculine / you, feminine
ellos / ellas / ustedes they, masculine / they, feminine / you, plural

But everything changes with reflexive pronouns. For once, English has the most. In fact, there are seven English reflexive pronouns while Spanish only has five of them.

Spanish subject pronouns Spanish reflexive pronouns English reflexive pronouns
yo me* myself
tú / vos te yourself (informal)
él / ella / usted se himself/herself/yourself (formal)
nosotros / nosotras nos ourselves
vosotros / vosotras os yourselves (informal, exclusively used in Spain)
ellos / ellas / ustedes se themselves/yourselves (formal in Spain, standard in Latin America)

Which is good, because it’s easier for you to learn and remember them.

When Do You Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish?

Successful landing! Before we open the hatch, let’s review the rules that apply in this new world.

Make sure you remember the following facts.

Spanish Direct Object Pronouns and Indirect Object Pronouns Aren’t the Same as Spanish Reflexive Pronouns

Some Spanish direct object and indirect object pronouns look and sound as the Spanish reflexive pronouns. Don’t let that confuse you!

Reflexive pronouns Direct object pronouns Indirect object pronouns
me me (“me”) me (“me / to me / for me”)
te te (“you”) te (“you / to you / for you”)
se lo (“him / it / you”) / *la (“her / it / you”) les (“him, her, you / to him, her, you / for him, her, you”)
nos nos (“us”) nos (“us / to us / for us”)
os os (“you”) os (“you / to you / for you”)
se los / las (“them / you”) les (“them, you / to them, you / for them, you”)

Don’t mistake verb phrases that include a direct pronoun for reflexive verbs!

Examples:

  • Yo la llamo Ana porque es su nombre (“I call her Ana because it’s her name.”) → Verb phrase with a direct object pronoun
  • Yo les llamo por teléfono todos los días (“I call them on the phone every day”) → Verb phrase with an indirect object pronoun
  • Yo me llamo Benny → Reflexive verb

Remember: with reflexive verbs, the subject pronoun and the receiver of the action are the same person/thing.

I talk more about Spanish pronouns right here, so click away if you’d like more explanations.

English and Spanish Do Not Work the Same Way

Spanish reflexive verbs do not always translate to reflexive verbs in English. English reflexive verbs are not always an appropriate translation of Spanish reflexive verbs.

Examples:

  • Me llamo Benny – “My name is Benny.” There is no reflexive verb in this sentence.
  • Me recuerdo – This phrase is generally used as “I remember” and not “I remember myself”.

To Be Reflexive or Not to Be Reflexive?

Some Spanish verbs have interchangeable reflexive and non-reflexive forms. They carry the same meaning.

Examples:

  • Yo recuerdo esto – “I remember that.”
  • Yo me recuerdo esto – “I remember that.”

These are rare, but don’t be surprised if you come across one during future expeditions.

There Are Many Spanish Reflexive Verbs

There are many more reflexive verbs in Spanish than there are in English. Plus, many commonly used Spanish verbs are reflexive. Think of the verbs irse (“to go”), dormirse (“to sleep”), and vestirse (“to dress oneself”).

Alright, we’re ready to leave the spaceship for exploration! Before you jump down, remember to take your map: “Reflexive Verbs, Spanish List”.

A List of Common Reflexive Verbs in Spanish

Ready to navigate your way around common reflexive verbs terrain?? Great, let me hand you the map.

Spanish verb group Spanish reflexive verb English translation
3 aburrirse to be bored, get bored
1 acercarse to come closer
1 acordarse to remember
1 alegrarse to rejoice
2 atreverse to dare
1 bañarse to bath
1 casarse to get married
1 comprarse to buy (something) for oneself
2 creerse to believe, to believe oneself
1 darse to give oneself
3 decirse to tell oneself
1 dedicarse to dedicate oneself
1 despertarse to wake up, to stand up
3 dormirse to sleep, to fall asleep
1 ducharse to take a shower
1 encontrarse to find oneself
1 enfermarse to get sick
1 enterarse to learn, to find out
1 fijarse to realize
1 hablarse to talk to oneself
2 hacerse to make oneself, to act
1 imaginarse to imagine
3 irse to go, to go away
1 lavarse to wash oneself
1 levantarse to wake up, to stand up
1 llamarse to be named
2 meterse to put oneself, to get, to mess around
1 olvidarse to forget
1 peinarse to brush or groom one's hair
2 ponerse to put oneself, to become
1 preguntarse to ask oneself
1 preocuparse to be procupied
1 quedarse to stay, to remain
3 referirse to refer oneself
3 reirse to laugh
1 sentarse to sit
3 sentirse to feel
2 verse to see oneself, to look
3 vestirse to dress oneself

As you can see, there are 39 different Spanish reflexive verbs in this list. Our next step is to explore their conjugation.

The thing is… They don’t all conjugate in the same way. But don’t worry! The Fluent in 3 Months team thought of everything before sending our mission to this planet. I know how to make the conjugation easier for you to grasp.

Reflexive Conjugation, Spanish Edition

First of all, let me reassure you: we are not going to meddle with fancy tenses (subjunctive who?). As this is our first exploration mission on this planet, we’ll take it slow and only talk about the present tense.

Now let’s get on with it.

There are three groups of verbs in Spanish:

  • first group, with verbs that end in -ar
  • second group, with verbs that end in -er
  • third group, with verbs that end in -ir

The purpose of a group is to gather all the verbs that conjugate in the same way: verb root + defined group conjugation.

But some verbs do not follow this pattern: they either change their root or the whole verb altogether. I will point them out and conjugate them.

Present Tense Conjugation of Spanish Reflexive Verbs, –ar Verbs

All the -ar verbs marked conjugate like acercarse

Acercarse – “to get closer”

me acerco I get closer
(with tú) *te acercas you get closer
(with *vos*) *te acercás you get closer
se acerca he / she / it gets closer / you get closer
nos acercamos we get closer
os acercáis you get closer
se acercan they / you get closer

… except:

Acordarse – “to remember”

me acuerdo I remember
(with ) te acuerdas you remember
(with vos) te acordás you remember
se acuerda he / she / it remembers / you remember
nos acordamos we remember
os acordáis you remember
se acuerdan they / you remember

Darse – “to give oneself”

Note: Darse is usually used in darse cuenta (“to realize”). Cuenta is a noun and doesn’t need conjugation.

me doy I give myself
te das you give yourself
se da he gives himself / she gives herself / it gives itself / you give yourself
nos damos we give ourselves
os dais you give yourselves
se dan they give themselves / you give yourselves

Despertarse – “to wake up”

me despierto I wake up
(with ) te despiertas you wake up
(with vos) te despertás you wake up
se despierta he / she / it wakes up / you wake up
nos despertamos we wake up
os despertáis you wake up
se despiertan they wake up / you wake up

Encontrarse – “to find oneself”

me encuentro I find myself
(with ) te encuentras you find yourself
(with vos) te encontrás you find yourself
se encuentra he finds himself / she finds herself / it finds itself / you find yourself
nos encontramos we find ourselves
os encontráis you find yourselves
se encuentran they find themselves / you find yourselves

Sentarse – “to sit”

me siento I sit
(with *tú*) *te sientas you sit
(with *vos*) *te sentás you sit
se sienta he / she / it sits / you sit
nos sentamos we sit
os sentáis you sit
se sientan they / you sit

Present Tense Conjugation of Spanish Reflexive Verbs, -er Verbs

All the verbs marked as belonging to the -er group of Spanish verbs conjugate like atreverse

Atreverse – “to dare”

me atrevo I dare
(with *tú*) *te atreves you dare
(with *vos*) *te atrevés you dare
se atreve he / she / it dares / you dare
nos atrevemos we dare
os atrevéis you dare
se atreven they / you dare

… except:

Hacerse – “to make oneself, to act”

Note: The only irregularity with hacerse is the root of the verb at the first person singular. The rest of the conjugation follows the normal second group pattern.

me hago I make myself
(with ) te haces you make yourself
(with vos) te hacés you make yourself
se hace he makes himself / she makes herself / it makes itself / you make yourself
nos hacemos we make ourselves
os hacéis you make yourselves
se hacen they make themselves / you make yourselves

Ponerse – “to become, to put oneself, to put on, to start”

me pongo I become
(with ) te pones you become
(with vos) te ponés you become
se pone he / she / it becomes / you become
nos ponemos we become
os ponéis you become
se ponen they / you become

Present Tense Conjugation of Spanish Reflexive Verbs, -ir Verbs

Funnily enough, almost none of the third group of verbs follow the verb root + defined group conjugation formula. Here are their different conjugations for -ir verbs.

Aburrirse – “to be bored, to get bored”

me aburro I am bored
(with ) te aburres you are bored
(with vos) te aburrís you are bored
se aburre he / she / it is bored / you are bored
nos aburrimos we are bored
os aburrís you are bored
se aburren they / you are bored

Decirse – “to tell oneself”

me digo I tell myself
(with ) te dices I tell myself
(with vos) te decís you tell yourself
se dice he tells himself / she tells herself / it tells itself / you tell yourself
nos decimos we tell ourselves
os decís you tell yourselves
se dicen they tell themselves / you tell yourselves

Dormirse – “to sleep, to fall asleep”

me duermo I fall asleep
(with ) te duermes you fall asleep
(with vos) te dormís you fall asleep
se duerme he / she / it falls asleep / you fall asleep
nos dormimos we fall asleep
os dormís you fall asleep
se duermen they / you fall asleep

Irse – “to leave, to go”

irse (“to go”)
me voy I go
te vas you go
se va he / she / it goes / you go
nos vamos we go
os vais you go
se van they / you go

Referirse (a) – “to refer (to)”

me refiero I refer
(with *tú*) *te refieres you refer
(with *vos*) *te referís you refer
se refiere he / she / it refers / you refer
nos referimos we refer
os referís you refer
se refieren they / you refer

Reírse – “to laugh, to make fun”

me río I laugh'
(with ) te ríes you laugh
(with vos) te reís you laugh
se ríe he / she / it laughs / you laugh
nos reímos we laugh
os reís you laugh
se ríen they / you laugh

Sentirse – “to feel”

me siento I feel
(with ) te sientes you feel
(with vos) te sentís you feel
se siente he / she / it feels / you feel
nos sentimos we feel
os sentís you feel
se sienten they / you feel

Vestirse – “to dress”

me visto I dress myself
(with ) te vistes you dress yourself
(with vos) te vestís you dress yourself
se viste he dresses himself / she dresses herself / it dresses itself / you dress yourself
nos vestimos we dress ourselves
os vestís you dress yourselves
se visten they dress themselves / you dress yourselves

If You Still Need Help With Reflexive Verbs in Spanish

Mission accomplished! We have samples to take home for further study. Time to reactivate the reactors and enjoy the ride back.

However… Are you serious about becoming fluent in Spanish? Then you will need more expeditions to the Spanish reflexive verbs planet. Let me tell you about the best spaceships to board.

The first is the Spanish Uncovered course. My fellow language-adventurer Olly Richards leads your journey to an intermediate Spanish-speaker level. To do so, he explores the world of reflexive verbs and much more. Find more information about the course in Elizabeth's review.

Secondly, check my list of the best resources for Spanish learning. They’re galactically good and will help you improve your Spanish on many levels.

Ahora Nos Decimos “Hasta Pronto” – “Now, We Tell Each Other See You Soon

Smooth landing on Earth!

It’s time for you to run to your friends and boast about the discoveries you made. Be kind though, not everyone had the chance to go on spacial Spanish adventures 😜

!Hasta pronto! (“See you soon!”)

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Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

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