Reflexive Verbs: Part II


  1. The written lesson is below.
  2. Links to quizzes, tests, etc. are to the left.

In the previous lesson, you learned that a verb is reflexive when the subject and the object are the same.

I wash myself.
subject: I
verb: wash
object: myself

Since the subject and object are the same, the verb is reflexive.

I wash the car.
subject: I
verb: wash
object: car

Since the subject and object are different, the verb is not reflexive.

You also learned that when a verb is reflexive, the infinitive ends in “se.”

to wash (non-reflexive)

to wash oneself (reflexive)

to scratch (non-reflexive)

to scratch oneself (reflexive)

You should have memorized a set of pronouns called “reflexive pronouns.”

me (myself)
te (yourself)
se (himself, herself, yourself)
nos (ourselves)
os (yourselves)
se (themselves, yourselves)

You learned to conjugate reflexive verbs like this:


yo me lavo
I wash (myself)

tú te lavas
you wash (yourself) (informal)

él/ella se lava
he/she washes (him/herself)

usted se lava
you wash (yourself) (formal)

nosotros/as nos lavamos
we wash (ourselves)

vosotros/as os laváis
you-all wash (yourselves) (informal)

ustedes se lavan
you-all wash (yourselves) (formal)

ellos/as se lavan
they wash (themselves)

In the lesson titled Direct Object Pronouns Part III you learned that when there are two verbs, you have two options on where to place the pronoun: before the conjugated verb or attached to the end of the infinitive.

I want to see it. (querer, ver)
Lo quiero ver.
Quiero verlo.

Lo debemos comprar.
Debemos comprarlo.
We should buy it.

María nos debe visitar.
María debe visitarnos.
Mary should visit us.

Juan lo necesita lavar.
Juan necesita lavarlo.
John needs to wash it.

The same is true regarding reflexive pronouns. When the sentence has two verbs, the pronoun can be placed directly before the conjugated verb or attached to the end of the infinitive.

I want to see myself.
Me quiero ver.
Quiero verme.

John needs to wash his hair.
Juan se necesita lavar el pelo.
Juan necesita lavarse el pelo.

Maria can wash her face now.
Ahora María se puede lavar la cara.
Ahora María puede lavarse la cara.

I have just gone to bed.
Acabo de acostarme.
Me acabo de acostar.

We prefer to wash with scented soap.
Preferimos lavarnos con jabón perfumado.
Nos preferimos lavar con jabón perfumado.

Whenever a verb directly follows a preposition, it remains in the infinitive form. For reflexive verbs, the ending -se changes to agree with the subject. Observe the differences in the following sentences, all of which are about counting burros before falling asleep.

Antes de dormirme, yo cuento burros.

Antes de dormirte, cuentas burros.

Antes de dormirse, la chica cuenta burros.

Antes de dormirnos, nosotros contamos burros.

Antes de dormiros, vosotros contáis burros.

Antes de dormirse, los chicos cuentan burros.

In English, many verbs can be used transitively (with a direct object) or intransitively (without a direct object).

The sun dried the clothes. (transitive)
The clothes dried in the sun. (intransitive)

In Spanish, these intransitive constructions frequently employ the reflexive form.

The sun dried the clothes. (transitive)
El sol secó la ropa.

The clothes dried in the sun. (intransitive)
La ropa se secó al sol.

Sometimes, the reflexive construction is used merely to emphasize who is performing the action of the sentence.

The cake? Maria ate it.
¿La torta? María se la comió.

For some verbs, the meaning changes when they are used reflexively.

aburrir – to bore
aburrirse – to be bored

acordar – to agree
acordarse de – to remember

acostar – to put to bed
acostarse – to go to bed

casar – to perform a marriage ceremony
casarse con – to become married to someone

despedir – to fire
despedirse de – to say goodbye

dormir – to sleep
dormirse – to fall asleep

ir – to go
irse – to go away, to leave

morir – to die (abruptly, as of an accident, war, etc.)
morirse – to die (as from natural causes; also “to die” figuratively)

negar – to deny
negarse a – to refuse

parecer – to seem
parecerse a – to resemble

poner – to put
ponerse – to put on

probar – to try, to taste
probarse – to try on

quitar – to take away
quitarse – to take off

A few verbs are always used reflexively.

arrepentirse (e:ie) – to repent
atreverse a – to dare
darse cuenta de – to realize
jactarse de – to boast
quejarse de – to complain about
suicidarse – to commit suicide