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8.8. PRESENT TENSE: Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs are used to describe an action that reflects back on the subject. A good example in English is the verb ‘to enjoy’. You can enjoy the food at a party but you could also just enjoy yourself in general at a party.

‘To enjoy oneself’ is the reflexive form of the verb ‘to enjoy’. However, in Spanish we use reflexive verbs much more than in English, very often in cases where it seems redundant to English speakers. 

For example, in English you would say ‘I shave every morning’ but in Spanish you say ‘I shave myself every morning’. To English speakers the ‘myself’ is understood and seems redundant but in Spanish if you don’t use the ‘myself’ your listener will probably be a bit confused.

Let’s take a look at a few common reflexive verbs starting with the two most common ones you will need to speak basic Spanish:

Afeitar - Afeitarse
To shave – to shave oneself

Lavar - Lavarse
To wash – to wash oneself

Sound Click here to listen

Notice how the verb adds a ‘se’ at the end to make it reflexive. Now let’s take a look at how you conjugate reflexive verbs in the present tense by using ‘me’, ‘te’, ‘se’, ‘nos’ and ‘se’.

Lavarse – To wash oneself

Yo me lavo – I wash myself
Tú te lavas  - You wash yourself
Usted se lava – You wash yourself
Él/Ella se lava – He/She washes himself/herself
Nosotros/Nosotras nos lavamos – We wash ourselves
Ustedes se lavan – You wash yourselves
Ellos/Ellas se lavan – They wash themselves

Sound Click here to listen

Reflexive verbs in Spanish also use a structure which can seem rather strange to English speakers.

Me lavo las manos – I wash my hands (lit. I wash myself the hands)
Se lava la cara – He/She washes his/her face (lit. He/She washes herself the face)

Sound Click here to listen

Afeitarse – to shave oneself also follows the same pattern of conjugation: me afeito, te afeitas, se afeita, nos afeitamos, se afeitan. If you wanted to say ‘I shave every morning’ you would say ‘Me afeito cada mañana’.
Sound Click here to listen

The following are some other verbs that are used in their reflexive form:

CAERSE – To fall
me caigo, te caes, se cae, nos caemos, se caen
Sound Click here to listen

LEVANTARSE – To get up
me levanto, te levantas, se levanta, nos levantamos, se levantan
Sound Click here to listen

IRSE – To go away, to leave
me voy, te vas, se va, nos vamos, se van
Sound Click here to listen

REIRSE – To laugh
me río, te ríes, se ríe, nos reímos, se ríen
Sound Click here to listen

BURLARSE – To make fun of
me burlo, te burlas, se burla, nos burlamos, se burlan
Sound Click here to listen

PONERSE – To put on
me pongo, te pones, se pone, nos ponemos, se ponen
Sound Click here to listen