How to Use Reciprocal Verbs in Spanish
Have you already heard of reciprocal verbs in Spanish? Do you know how to distinguish them from reflexive verbs? Can you list 10 reciprocal verbs right now?
If you answered “no” to at least one of these questions, you should keep reading and I can guarantee that in the end, your three answers will be “yes.”
What about Reflexive Verbs?
Before we jump into reciprocal verbs, let’s have a quick look at reflexive verbs. In the beginning, students tend to confuse them but you’ll see, the difference is quite obvious.
Reflexive verbs express an action that a subject performs on itself. Many verbs that refer to personal care and daily routines are reflexive.
Yo me baño cada mañana.
I take a shower every morning.
Se levanta temprano.
She wakes up early.
¡Péinate, por favor!
Comb your hair, please!
Me veo en el espejo, y veo que me parezco a ti, mamá.
I see myself in the mirror and I see that I look like you, mom.
Be sure to accompany reflexive verbs with the proper reflexive pronoun.
If you feel like you need more information on reflexive verbs, check out a Definitive Guide on When to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish. You may also learn How to Use Reflexive Verbs in Spanish Conversation.
And now, let’s move on to reciprocal verbs.
Reciprocal Verbs in Spanish
Reciprocal verbs are actions that two or more people do to each other. We use them with reciprocal pronouns that are always plural. It means you will only use these plural subjects:
- nosotros (we)
- ustedes (plural you)
- ellos, ellas (they)
María y Juan se besaron en el altar por primera vez.
Maria and Juan kissed each other at the altar for the first time.
¿Ustedes dos se conocen?
Do you two know each other?
Nos ayudamos cuando hace falta.
We help each other when necessary.
Nos miramos y nos abrazamos.
We looked at each other and hugged.
Se reunieron después de 20 años.
They reunited after 20 years.
¿Ustedes se quieren de verdad?
Do you really love each other?
How and When to use Reciprocal Verbs in Spanish
Reciprocal verbs express an action performed and equally received by two or more people. You only use them with plural subjects, and they need to be matched with correct plural form pronouns.
- Nosotros – nos
- Ustedes – se
- Ellos, ellas – se
All these pronouns can be translated into English “each other” but sometimes it doesn’t seem necessary.
This is the formula:
(Plural Subjects) + reciprocal pronouns + verbs in plural form
Juan y Ana se conocieron en Madrid.
Juan and Ana met (each other) in Madrid.
Remember, everything goes in plural with reciprocal verbs: subjects, pronouns, and verbs.
Difference Between Reflexive and Reciprocal Verbs
Let’s put it together again.
Reflexive verbs talk about actions that a subject (or subjects) perform on itself. They can be used both with singular and plural forms.
Me levanto a las 7 AM.
I get up at 7 AM.
Se levantan a las 7 AM.
They get up at 7 AM.
On the other hand, reciprocal verbs in Spanish express an action that is performed and received by two or more people. They do it to each other. These verbs always go with plural forms.
Ellos se aman.
They love each other.
Nos peleamos mucho.
We fight (with each other) a lot.
How to Avoid Confusion: Reflexive versus Reciprocal
Some verbs can be used as reflexive and reciprocal verbs at the same time and you might want to add the expressions uno a otro, or una a otra to avoid confusion.
Nosotras nos miramos. (reflexive)
We looked at ourselves.
Nosotras nos miramos una a otra. (reciprocal)
We looked at each other.
List of Most Common Reciprocal Verbs in Spanish
The following verbs are the most common reciprocal verbs in Spanish. The list isn’t exhaustive but it gives you a great list of verbs to start practicing.
|abrazarse||to hug each other|
|amarse||to love each other|
|animarse||to cheer each other up|
|ayudarse||to help each other|
|besarse||to kiss each other|
|casarse||to get married to each other|
|conocerse||to get to know each other|
|despedirse||to say goodbye to each other|
|divorciarse||to divorce each other|
|enojarse||to get angry at each other|
|escribirse||to write to each other|
|estrellarse||to crash into each other|
|hablarse||to talk to each other|
|lastimarse||to hurt each other|
|llamarse||to call each other|
|matarse||to kill each other|
|mirarse||to look at each other|
|pelearse||to fight with each other|
|reunirse||to get together|
|sorprenderse||to surprise each other|
|turnarse||to take turns|
|verse||to see each other|
A Quiz on Reciprocal Verbs in Spanish
Start Your Quiz Now!
Let’s see if you have mastered the topic. Look at the following sentences and choose the correct form of the reciprocal verb.
1. Mi prima y mi primo se pelean mucho.
2. Ana y yo nos reunimos en Lima el año pasado.
3. ¿Ustedes dos se llaman todos los días?
4. Niños, no se maten por favor en estos columpios.
5. Mi hermana y yo nos sorprendimos con la noticia.
6. Estos tres se mandan muchos mensajes durante la clase.
7. Pedro y yo nos besamos.
8. Mi mamá y mi papá siempre se abrazan.
9. Los dos cochecitos se estrellaron.
10. Estos hermanos siempre se animan.
Good job! I’m sure you’re now an expert on reciprocal verbs in Spanish and can easily distinguish them from reflexive verbs.
What’s your next step towards fluency? Practicing reciprocal verbs in Spanish in conversations. Don’t forget that you can always sign up for a free class with one of our native, Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. It’s a great opportunity for using your theoretical skills in practice!
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