Grammar Tip – Spanish Reflexive Verbs
Los verbos reflexivos (Spanish reflexive verbs) indicate those actions that someone usually performs on themselves. In fact, most reflexive verbs express actions related to personal care or daily routines: e.g. levantarse (to get up), lavarse (to wash oneself), vestirse (to get dressed). For this reason, reflexive verbs are always accompanied by reflexive pronouns which must agree with the subject in person and number.
|ME||lavo||I wash myself|
|TE||lavas||You wash yourself|
|SE||lava||He washes himself/she washes herself|
|NOS||lavamos||We wash ourselves|
|OS||laváis||You lot wash yourselves|
|SE||lavan||They wash themselves|
As shown in the grid above, to conjugate a reflexive verb such as lavarse (lavar + se) in the present tense, you must drop the reflexive ending -se and apply the usual endings for -ar verbs of the tense at hand along with the reflexive pronouns going before each verbal form.
Needless to say, this rule applies to all three verb groups, i.e. –ar, -er, -ir, as well as any tense.
ducharse (duchar + se) = me duchaba →I used to shower myself
caerse (caer + se) = te has caído → you have fallen down
vestirse (vestir + se) = nos vestiremos → we will get dressed
However, in the case of verbal periphrasis, reflexive pronouns can either go before the main verb or attached to the second verb.
Carlota se está preparando. = Carlota está preparándose. → Carlota is getting ready.
¿Te vas a bañar? = ¿Vas a bañarte? → Are you going to take a bath?
To form the negative of reflexive verbs you simply need to put no before the reflexive pronoun accompanying the verb.
No me maquillo todos los días. → I don’t put make up on every day.
De pequeña no me acostaba muy temprano. → As a child, I wouldn’t go to bed very early.
Be aware that a great number of Spanish reflexive verbs express a different meaning when used as non-reflexive, that is without reflexive pronouns. Here are some of them:
|ir(se)||to leave / to quit|
|levantar(se)||to get up|
|llamar(se)||to be named (called)|
|meter(se)||te get in|
|ocupar(se)||to take responsibility for|
|perder(se)||to get lost|
|poner(se)||to become / to get dressed in|
Let’s look at some examples:
Mañana vamos a la playa. → Tomorrow we are going to the beach.
≠Se fue del trabajo porque no aguantaba a su jefe. → He left his job as he couldn’t stand his boss.
Acabo de poner los platos en la mesa. → I’ve just put the plates on the table.
≠ Luis siempre se pone los mismos zapatos. → Luis wears the same shoes all the time.