How to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish Conversation
Me llamo [insert your name here].
That simple sentence, so basic and so important for all our interactions with other people, was probably the first thing you learned to say in Spanish.
That sentence uses a reflexive verb, and odds are that nobody ever told you that before. Don’t worry, that’s normal. It’s just that reflexive verbs in Spanish flow so naturally in conversations that many people (Spanish speakers included) don’t even know they are there.
However, for new learners of the language, it’s important to recognize them, understand how they work, and use them properly in conversations.
Reflexive Verbs in Spanish
Reflexive verbs are a topic that can get tricky for students of Spanish because their logic is quite different from the way English works. However, once you understand how they work, you’ll be able to express a lot of ideas in Spanish, that otherwise would be a challenge to express.
Actually, you can identify an advanced learner of the language by noticing how well they have mastered reflexive verbs. Believe me, they are important.
First, let’s take a look at what reflexive verbs are, and then we’ll see how they work in Spanish.
What is a Reflexive Verb?
Reflexive verbs are a type of pronominal verb, and their uniqueness lies in that they express an action done by the subject to the same subject. In other words, if I am the subject, then the action would be performed on myself. If other people are the subject, then the action would be performed by them to themselves.
An easy way to identify reflexive verbs in Spanish is by their ending. Instead of ending in -ar, -er, and -ir, like all other Spanish verbs, the reflexive verbs add -se to the end of the verb. To give you an idea, some examples of reflexive verbs in Spanish include llamarse (to call oneself), peinarse (to brush oneself), lavarse (to wash oneself), and many others that we’ll see in a minute.
These verbs are always accompanied by a reflexive pronoun. If you can’t see one of these pronouns around, then you are not dealing with a reflexive verb. In the verbs above, the reflexive pronoun is that -se at the end of the verb. But, what is a reflexive pronoun and how does it work?
What Is a Reflexive Pronoun?
Here, I’m only going to give you the basics of reflexive pronouns and a taste of their importance in Spanish. (Learn more about reflexive pronouns here.)
I’ve found that the best way to explain reflexive pronouns in Spanish is by letting students know that they also exist in English. Myself, yourself, himself/herself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves, are the equivalent to the Spanish reflexive pronouns:
They can be placed in different positions throughout the sentence, but if we are dealing with a reflexive verb, they are always there.
Forming Reflexive Verbs
The main thing to remember when using reflexive verbs is to make sure that the reflexive pronoun matches the subject, both in person and in number. For example, you shouldn’t use the reflexive pronoun se when talking in the first person singular (yo).
Let’s see one example for each person:
Reflexive Verbs in Spanish
|Yo me baño por las mañanas.||I shower (myself) every morning.|
|¿Te lavas los dientes antes de dormir?||Do you brush your teeth (yourself) before going to bed?|
|Ella se llama María.||Her name is María.|
(Literal: She calls herself María.)
|Nosotros nos peinamos solos.||We brush our hair by ourselves.|
|Ustedes no se preocupen.||You guys don’t worry (yourselves).|
|Ellas se sientan en las sillas.||They sit (themselves) on the chairs.|
Using Reflexive Verbs in Conversation
Once you have grasped the idea behind reflexive verbs in Spanish and how they work, the next step is to start using them in conversations.
In the beginning, you may feel a bit awkward using them, as you are not used to the same concept in English (You would never say “I brush my teeth myself”). But, once you get a feeling for them, you’ll see how handy they are when having a conversation in Spanish.
Reflexive Verbs: Common Topics of Conversation
Reflexive verbs in Spanish are more commonly used in certain types of conversations than in others. To better understand what kinds of conversations require the use of reflexive verbs, it’s useful to know as many reflexive verbs as possible.
Topics of conversation where reflexive verbs in Spanish are commonly used include:
- Getting married or engaged
- Anything about self-care (taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, etc.)
- Getting sick or feeling ill
- Introducing yourself or getting to know new people
- Leaving a place
- Remembering someone/something
- Worrying or complaining about someone/something
Example Conversations with Reflexive Verbs
Check out a couple of imaginary conversations in which reflexive verbs in Spanish are widely used:
Starting Your Day
Mom: ¡Ya levántate Carlos! (Come on Carlos, get up!)
Carlos: Espérate Mamá, apenas me desperté. (Wait Mom, I’ve just woken up.)
Mom: ¿Te vas a duchar? (Are you going to take a shower?)
Carlos: No, solo me visto, me peino, y bajo a desayunar. (No, I’m just getting dressed, brushing my hair, and coming down for breakfast.
Mom: No olvides lavarte los dientes. (Don’t forget to brush your teeth.)
Carlos: Ya no tengo tiempo Mamá, ya me voy. (I don’t have time for that, I’m leaving now.)
Mom: ¿Ya te fuiste? (Did you already leave?)
As you can see, every single sentence in that conversation includes a reflexive verb in Spanish. That’s because many of the actions taking place at the start of our days are performed on ourselves.
Elsa: ¿Cuándo te comprometiste? (When did you get engaged?)
Ana: Hace unos minutos. (Just a few minutes ago.)
Elsa: ¿Y cuándo se van a casar? (And when are you going to get married?)
Ana: Queremos casarnos el próximo año. (We want to get married next year.)
Elsa: ¿No te arrepentirás de esto? (Aren’t you going to regret this?)
Ana: Al contrario, me siento muy feliz. (On the contrary, I feel very happy.)
Fill in the blank with the right conjugation of the reflexive verbs in Spanish in parenthesis (the answer key is below!):
- ¿A qué hora _______________ anoche? – At what time did you fall asleep last night? (dormirse)
- _______________ durante las vacaciones. – I got sick during my vacations. (enfermarse)
- _______________ José. – His name is Jose. / He calls himself Jose. (llamarse)
- ¿______________ conmigo? – Did you guys get mad at me? (enojarse)
- Mi trabajo _______________ . – My job bores me. (aburrirse)
No Te Arrepentirás
Sign up now for a free class with one of our native Spanish-speaking teachers and no te arrepentirás (you won’t regret it). Homeschool Spanish Academy offers fun and flexible classes with certified teachers from Guatemala, with whom you’ll be able to practice your conversation skills while using reflexive verbs in Spanish!
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