This lesson is all about Spanish reflexive verbs. This is one of the more complicated lessons (but no more complicated than some previous lessons!). A reflexive verb is a verb where the action of a subject falls upon the subject itself. Many reflexive verbs are related to routines of the daily life (peinarse, acostarse, levantase, etc). You will see that many of these verbs end with the word "se", which indicates that the verbal action falls on the subject itself.
In other words; in Spanish, when you talk about an action being performed on yourself, you show the reflexive nature of the action with a reflexive verb.
Resources for further reading:
Reflexive verbs indicate that the subject of the sentence has performed an action on itself. In other words, in a reflexive sentence the subject is the same as the object. Examples of reflexive actions are the following:
You may look at the last example and say, "But the object is teeth! Why should that verb be reflexive?"
In Spanish, parts of the body are never preceded by personal pronouns. In other words, you never talk about "my teeth"--you talk about "the teeth," with a reflexive verb preceding it.
For example, in English you would say:
In Spanish, you would say:
All reflexive verbs are preceded by reflexive pronouns.
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Me peino el pelo
I comb my hair
Te peinas el pelo
You comb your hair
Ella se peina el pelo
She combs her hair
Nos peinamos el pelo
We comb our hair
Os peináis el pelo
You comb your hair
Ellos se peinan el pelo
They comb their hair
If you are reading Spanish, you will know that a verb is reflexive by the ending –se tacked onto its infinitive form. Below is a list of some common reflexive verbs. Note the common –se ending.
A verb is not reflexive if it does not have the -se ending. For example, compare:
The first example is reflexive, but the second one is not! In the first example, the subject is performing the action on his/herself (e.g., I wake myself up), and the verb is despertarse. In the second example, the subject is performing the action on someone else (e.g., I wake you up), and the verb is despertar.
Can you guess which example uses a reflexive verb and which does not?
Some verbs are ALWAYS reflexive, like enfermarse.
Maria se peina el pelo todas las noches.
Mary combs her hair every night.
Me lavo la cara todas las mañanas.
I wash my face every morning.
Mis padres se enojan cuando no los llamo.
My parents get angry when I don't call them.
Francisco se cortó la mano.
Francis cut his hand.
Los niños se quemaron con los juegos pirotécnicos.
The children burned themselves with the fireworks.
When a person becomes emotional, the verb used will often be reflexive. For example, if you get angry, become sad, or feel happy for someone, you will need to express yourself using a reflexive verb.
This can seem a bit confusing at first. You've learned how to use estar with descriptive adjectives to express emotions.
When you say how you feel in this way, you're expressing your emotional state at that moment.
However, when you want to describe how your emotional state has changed over time or as a result of something, estar simply won't do. You'll need a reflexive verb.
Don't worry too much about this nuance of reflexive verbs! The more you hear verbs in action, the more you'll naturally pick up which verbs are used reflexively and which are not.
Check out more Spanish Verbs for useful info! Here are some recommended lessons:
See you soon! ¡Hasta pronto!
Mauricio Evlampieff: Rocket Spanish
Reinforce your learning from this lesson with the Rocket Reinforcement activities!