Reflexive Verbs

What is a reflexive verb?

Many actions related to our daily routine and personal care are reflexive, which means that it’s the subject who performs the action on itself. Look at the following examples:

Example 1

Mientras yo me ducho, los niños y tú desayunáis. Después, mientras tú te duchas, los niños se visten y salimos todos juntos.

While I have a shower, you and the children have breakfast. Later, while you have a shower, children get dressed and we all come out.

How we form reflexive verbs?

General rule: Reflexive pronouns agrees with the subject. (Yo) me levanto, (Tú) te afeitas, (Ellos) se lavan los dientes…

How we use reflexive verbs?

Look at the four main uses of reflexive verbs. They are really easy!

1. Some Spanish verbs have a reflexive pronoun (lavarse, afeitarse, vestirse, ducharse…) . This fact allows us to indicate that the person who performs the action and the person who receives it, is the same. For example:

Example 2

Todos los días me levanto a las 8:00, me ducho y me visto para ir a trabajar.

I get up at 8.00 a.m. everyday, I have a shower I get dressed to go to work.

2. Other verbs, like aburrirse, divertirse, arrepentirse, aburrirse… always have a reflexive pronoun. For example:

Example 3

Me arrepiento de no haber dicho la verdad.

I regret not having told the truth.

Example 4

Se llama Lucía y su hermano se llama Luis.

She is called Lucía and her brother is called Luis.

3. Most of the Spanish reflexive verbs ends in -ar, like levantarse, ducharse, afeitarse, peinarse, acostarse… But there are also some verbs ending in -er, like moverse, and -ir, like vestirse or aburrirse.

Example 5

Se afeitan cada dos semanas.

They shave every two weeks.

Example 6

Se mueve mucho cuando duerme.

She moves a lot when she is sleeping.

Example 7

¿No te aburres aquí sola?

Aren’t you bored here all alone?

4. Pronouns are always before the verb, except with infinitives.

Example 8

Nada más levantarme, me lavo la cara

When I get up, I wash my face

Important aspects to take into account

1. Some verbs can be used with or without a reflexive pronoun. If the subject and object is the same, the verb is reflexive. If the subject  performs the action to another person, the verb is not reflexive. For example:

Example 9

Mi madre se tiñe el pelo (Reflexive)

My mother dyes her hair.

Mi madre tiñe el pelo a mi hermana (Non reflexive)

My mother tyes my sister’s hair.

Example 10

Tu madre se ducha por la noche (Reflexive)

Your mum has a shower at night.

Tu madre ducha a tu hermana pequeña por la noche (Non reflexive)

Your mum shower your little sister at night.


2. Sometimes, the same verb in its reflexive and non-reflexive form, has an entirely different meaning.  Look at the following examples:

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