Master Pronominal Verbs in Spanish Grammar
Pronominal verbs in Spanish are highly useful verbs that allow you to express ideas that other “normal” verbs simply can’t.
But, what makes these verbs so special?
Keep reading to learn:
- What the pronominal verbs in Spanish are
- Which pronouns accompany them all the time
- The 6 types of pronominal verbs in Spanish.
Then, discover a top 10 list of the most commonly used pronominal verbs in Spanish, solve a quick quiz, and become a master of these verbs by introducing them into your real-life conversations in Spanish!
What Are Pronominal Verbs in Spanish?
There are some verbs that require a reflexive pronoun to work, and they’re called pronominal verbs in Spanish. The key is in the name “pronominal,” which means “related to a pronoun”—and that pronoun is reflexive.
The reflexive pronouns in Spanish are:
- (yo) me
- (tú) te
- (él/ella) se
- (nosotros) nos
- (ustedes) se
- (ellos/ellas) se
These pronouns also exist in English:
- (I) myself
- (you) yourself
- (he) himself
- (she) herself
- (it) itself
- (we) ourselves
- (you all) yourselves
- (they) themselves
Although in English the reflexive pronouns are often implicit, they’re not optional in Spanish. Also, remember that the reflexive pronoun must always agree with the subject!
Finally, reflexive pronouns in Spanish can vary their position in a sentence without changing their meaning:
Me voy a vestir en mi cuarto.
I’m going to get dressed in my bedroom.
Voy a vestirme en mi cuarto.
I’m going to get dressed in my bedroom.
6 Types of Pronominal Verbs
Exactly as they do in English, all Spanish pronominal verbs describe an action that we do to ourselves or that affects us directly.
There are 6 different types of pronominal verbs, which we will explore how to use below.
1. Reflexive Pronominal Verbs
This type of pronominal verb in Spanish is the most common and the one most people think of when they hear about pronominal verbs. Reflexive verbs express “an action done by the subject to the same subject.” However, it’s important to mention that although all reflexive verbs are pronominal verbs, not all pronominal verbs in Spanish are reflexive.
Reflexive Verb: lavarse (to wash oneself)
Yo me lavo los dientes todos los días.
I wash my teeth (myself) every day.
Reflexive verb: sentarse (to sit down oneself)
Nosotros nos sentaremos detrás de la pista de baile.
We’ll sit down (ourselves) behind the dance floor.
2. Pure Pronominal Verbs
The unique aspect of these pronominal verbs in Spanish is that they can’t exist without a reflexive pronoun—contrary to reflexive verbs, which can exist as lavar (to wash) or lavarse (to wash oneself), sentar (to place in a seat, to set) and sentarse (to sit down).
Pure Pronominal Verb: quejarse (to complain)
Carlos se queja de todo.
Carlos complains about everything.
Pure Pronominal Verb: arrepentirse (to regret)
Ya nos arrepentimos de nuestra decisión.
We already regret our decision.
3. Reciprocal Pronominal Verbs
The reciprocal pronominal verbs in Spanish are easy to understand as they express an action that people do to each other. Since an action can only be reciprocated with another person, these verbs only work with plural subject pronouns:
The English equivalent to this kind of verb would be the phrase “each other.”
Reciprocal Pronominal Verb: abrazarse (to hug each other)
Miguel y Fernanda se abrazaron por largo rato.
Miguel and Fernanda hugged each other for a long time.
Reciprocal Pronominal Verb: verse (to see each other)
Nos veremos el próximo año.
We’ll see each other next year.
4. Pseudo-reflexive Pronominal Verbs
These impostor verbs only look reflexive but are actually just pronominal verbs. How can you tell? Well, reflexive verbs express actions that are done by the subject on that same subject, and pseudo-reflexive don’t actually express actions but feelings.
A good way to identify this type of verbs is to call them “emotional pronominal verbs,” as they always involve feelings and emotions.
Pseudo-reflexive Pronominal Verb: emocionarse (to get excited)
Mi perro se emociona mucho al verme.
My dog gets all excited when he sees me.
Pseudo-reflexive Pronominal Verb: aburrirse (to get bored)
Me aburro mucho en la clase de matemáticas.
I get bored a lot in math class.
5. Datives of Interest Pronominal Verbs
A dative of interest or ethical dative is an object pronoun that is sometimes added to the verb to indicate that the subject of the sentence is interested, affected, involved, or concerned by the action taking place.
Think of the English expression “cry me a river,” where the “me” is the dative of interest. In Spanish, these expressions also exist, but as pronominal verbs.
No te me vayas a dormir hijita, ya casi llegamos a la casa.
Don’t sleep on me darling, we’re almost home.
Cuídateme mucho por favor.
Please, take care of yourself (for me).
6. Meaning-changing Pronominal Verbs
As their name suggests, the meaning-changing pronominal verbs are verbs that change their meaning depending on whether they are pronominal or not.
- Pronominal verb aburrirse means “to get bored”
- (Non-pronominal) Verb aburrir means “to bore”
¿Te aburres en la clase de matemáticas?
Do you get bored in math class?
El profesor de matemáticas aburre mucho a sus alumnos.
The math teacher bore his students a lot.
- Pronominal verb perderse means “to get lost”
- (Non-pronominal) Verb perder means “to lose”
¡Ya nos perdimos!
We got lost!
Perdí la apuesta con mi hermano.
I lost the bet with my brother.
Top 10 Pronominal Verbs to Master Today
You know what pronominal verbs are—now it’s time to master a list of Spanish verbs you can start using today!
- Lavarse – to wash oneself
- Levantarse – to get up
- Hablarse – to talk to each other
- Verse – to see each other
- Emocionarse – to get excited
- Arrepentirse – to regret
- Aburrirse – to get bored
- Acostarse – to go to bed
- Alegrarse – to rejoice
- Peinarse – to comb one’s hair
Pronominal Verbs Quiz
Test your newly acquired pronominal verbs skills with this fun interactive quiz!
1. ¿Ya _____ con tu hermana?
2. Me _____ esta película.
3. Papá ya fue a ______ .
4. Carlos se _____ de lo que hizo.
5. ¡Nos _____ mañana!
6. ¿Te ______ que haya venido?
7. Hoy me _______ muy temprano.
8. Me _____ volver a verla.
9. ¿Siempre te _____ antes de salir?
10. _____ las manos antes de venir a la mesa.
Practice Your Pronominal Verbs in Real Time
That’s a wrap! All you need now to become a master in pronominal verbs is to practice them and introduce them into your real-life Spanish conversations. They can be tricky at first, but once you understand how they work, they’re actually pretty easy!
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