Spanish Grammar Guide

Reflexive/Pronominal Verbs (e.g.: yo me acuesto.)

An Overview of Reflexive/Pronominal Verbs:

Reflexive verbs have a pronoun as part of the infinitive and appear with the pronoun in the dictionary, e.g.: despertarse, acostarse. Reflexive verbs correspond to "do something to/with/for oneself" in English. When using reflexive verbs, the pronominal element must agree with the subject (i.e. refer to the same person) who receives, experiences or benefits from the action, e.g.: yo me lavo las manos, te bañas, nosotros nos sentimos bien. 

The reflexive pronouns are illustrated in the present tense in the following table, using the verb divertirse ("to have fun"; "amuse oneself"):

Present tense Translation
yo me divierto
"I have fun"
tú te diviertes
"you have"
él/ella/usted se divierte
"he, she has fun"; "you have fun"
nosotros nos divertimos
"we have fun"
vosotros os divertís
"you have fun"
ellos/ellas/ustedes se divierten
"they have fun"; "you have fun"

 

Common Reflexive/Pronominal Verbs

Be sure to familiarize yourself with common reflexive verbs, such as:

acordarse ("to remember")
acostarse ("to go to bed/lie down")
apurarse ("to hurry")
arrepentirse ("to regret")
atreverse ("to dare")
bañarse ("to bathe oneself")
casarse ("to get married")
darse cuenta de ("to notice/realize")
despertarse ("to wake up")
dormirse ("to fall asleep")
ducharse ("to take a shower")
enojarse ("to get angry")
irse ("to go away/leave")
llamarse ("to be called")
lavarse ("to wash oneself")
levantarse ("to get up")
maquillarse ("to do one's makeup")
peinarse ("to do one's hair")
ponerse de acuerdo ("to agree on")
preguntarse ("to wonder")
preocuparse ("to worry")
quedarse ("to stay")
quejarse de ("to complain about")
quitarse ("to take off")
sentarse ("to sit down")
sentirse ("to feel")
 
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When talking about body parts in Spanish, use a reflexive verb rather than possessive pronouns as in English, e.g.:

  • Me lavo las manos, NOT Lavo mis manos to say "I am washing my hands."
  • Se pinta las uñas, NOT Pinta sus uñas to say "She paints her nails." 

Write yo recuerdo, but yo me acuerdo. Recordar ("to remind") is NOT a reflexive verb. 

Some common reflexive verbs can also be used non-reflexively as long as they appear with an object, usually another person, e.g.:

Reflexive verb Reflexive Phrase Non-reflexive Verb  Non-reflexive Phrase
vestirse Nos vestimos para la fiesta. vestir Mi mamá viste a la niña para la fiesta.
despertarse Ella se despierta temprano. depertar Tú me despiertas a mí a las 7 de la mañana.
pintarse Los payasos se pintan las caras. pintar Les pinto las caras de los niños.
bañarse Te bañas cada día. bañar Tus padres te bañas cuando estás enfermo.
llamarse Él se llama Jorge. llamar Él nos llama por teléfono.
quitarse Se quitan los abrigos al entrar a la casa. quitar Mis padres me quitan a mí el libro.
preguntarse Os preguntáis qué hay en las noticias hoy. preguntar Nosotros preguntamos al profesor, a ver si sabe.

However, some verbs are ALWAYS reflexive and cannot be used without a reflexive pronoun, e.g.: arrepentirse, atreverse, darse cuenta de, ponerse de acuerdo, quejarse de.

Placement of Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are usually placed in front of the verb, e.g.: no me dormía. The pronouns are also attached to the end of the verb in the following conditions: infinitives, e.g.: Quiero dormirme (also correct to say Me quiero dormir); present progressive, e.g.: Estoy maquillándome (also correct to say Me estoy maquillando); and affirmative commands, e.g.: Levántate (pronouns MUST be attached to the end of affirmative commands).

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Note that when the pronouns are attached to affirmative commands and the present progressive, you need to add an accent, e.g.: ¡Háblame!

 
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