Spanish Grammar – Reflexive Verbs, Reflexive Pronouns

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Spanish Grammar – Reflexive Verbs, Reflexive Pronouns

What is a Reflexive Verb?

According to Wikipedia:

In grammar, a reflexive verb is, loosely, a verb whose direct object is the same as its subject, for example, "I wash myself". More generally, a reflexive verb has the same semantic agent and patient (typically represented syntactically by the subject and the direct object).

I don't know about you, but I hate these kinds of technical descriptions that make you think you are dealing with rocket science when in reality, it's a pretty simple process. The following notes and videos will explain this to you in plain English, instead of just technical jargon.

 

A practical non-technical definition:

A reflexive verb is a verb in which the person doing the action is the same that received the outcome of that action.


For example, "if I get dressed", I am doing the action and at the end of that action, I am dressed, so I received the outcome of that action. But if instead, I dress my baby girl, then the same verb cannot be reflexive because I do the action of dressing, but the baby is the one receiving the outcome of my work.

 

Let's see some more examples:

Juan compra ropa .         Juan se compra ropa    
Maybe for himself, for his family, for someone else. We don't know who the recipient of that clothing may be.         By using the reflexive particle se, we know for certain that whatever clothing he is buying is for himself. He's the recipient of that clothing.    
               
María viste a los niños.         María se viste .    
Now the kids are ready to go to school because their mom put clothes on them. María does the action, her kids receive the outcome of that action.         She is the one getting dressed. The reflexive particle (se in this case) shows that the person doing the action is also the one receiving the outcome of that action.    
               
Sus hijos ayudan.         Sus hijos se ayudan.    
Their kids help someone (maybe their parents, their grandparents or anyone else)         By using the reflexive particle (se in this case) we know that they help each other or one another.    

 

Understanding how Spanish Reflexive Verbs work

The following video will show you step by step how reflexive verbs and reflexive particles work, and you will know when to use reflexive verbs and when not to.

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If you were intrigued by the word SE in the previous examples, let me tell you that that is known as  "reflexive particle" or "reflexive pronoun" and it signals that the verb is reflexive. Here's a chart with all the reflexive particles you need to know.

Spanish Reflexive Pronouns

(Yo) me (Tú) te (Usted-Él-Ella) se
(Nosotros) nos (Vosotros) os (Ustedes-Ellos) se

 

In the next video you will learn how to conjugate reflexive verbs.

 

For a list of the most Common Spanish Reflexive Verbs, click here. If instead you need to learn how to conjugate reflexive verbs, click here. For some grammar practice, click here.

 


Useful Resources

 

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