How to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish – Easy-to-Follow Guide with Reflexive Verbs List
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.
|tú||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|
|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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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||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||hablarse||to talk to oneself|
|2||hacerse||to make oneself, to act|
|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||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|
|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|
Acordarse – “to remember”
|me acuerdo||I remember|
|(with tú) 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 tú) 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 tú) 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|
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 tú) 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 tú) 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 tú) 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 tú) 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 tú) 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 tú) 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 tú) 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 tú) 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!”)