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Verbos Reflexivos:
Un repaso gramático

¿Cómo te llamas?
 

¿Cómo te sientes hoy?


Para empezar...
Grab a Spanish-English dictionary, and look up the following words: (Be sure to find the verbs- they have to have an AR, ER or IR, ¿verdad?)

wake (up)

stand (up)

complain

sit (down)

shave

wash

shower

bathe

You probably found a few words for each of these, but I am certain that for each of these you found at least one word that ended in "se".  (The words you might have found that end in "se" are: despertarse, levantarse, quejarse, sentarse, afeitarse, lavarse, ducharse, bañarse)

What the heck is the "se"?

In Spanish there is a group of verbs known as "reflexives".  These are verbs that have the "se" attached to the end of them, and this group can be divided into three categories:

The purpose of this, however, is not to study reflexive verbs, there are separate units that do that.  What we do want to explore here is what to do if you encounter one and you need to use it. Follow along, because it is really quite simple.

First, look at the verb as two separate pieces.  Remove the "se" and you are left with an infinitive that you can probably manipulate.  For example, say you looked up "bathe" and found bañarse.  Take away the "se" and you are left with bañar.  Treat "bañar" like a regular AR verb.  In the present tense it will be baño, bañas, baña, bañamos, bañáis, bañan.  (It is also regular in all other tenses, too.) Now you have to deal with the "SE".  In almost all situations, you are going to take the "SE" and put it in front of the verb*. (Click here to see when it might not go in front of the verb. The only tricky part then is that you have to make sure it (the reflexive pronoun*) agrees with the subject.  Use the following chart to see which pronoun matches is used with which subject:  Make a note of this in your notebook.
 
 

Subject (Pronoun)
Reflexive Pronoun
yo
me
te
él, ella, Ud.
se
nosotros [as]
nos
vosotros [as]
os
ellos, ellas, Uds.
se

*The reflexive pronoun is actually an object pronoun.  Therefore it signifies who is receiving the action.  In the case of all reflexive verbs, unless it is idiomatic [like quejarse], this means the subject does the action to him/herself.

So, our final (present tense indicative) conjugation of "bañarse" is:
 

me baño
te bañas
se baña
nos bañamos
os bañáis
se bañan
If you mix up the pronouns, you can make some interesting sentences, or ones that are just totally wrong.  For example:
 


So, you can see that use of the correct reflexive pronoun is important.
 

Did you know?
You have been using one reflexive construction since you started your study of Spanish.  You should have used it when you opened this page.  ¿Cómo te llamas? >  Me llamo....(don Carlos) Comes from llamarse- to call oneself.  We use the queston to ask someone's name, but its pure meaning is "How do you call yourself?"  "I call myself..."  Sentirse is another reflexive construction meaning "to feel".  So ¿Cómo te sientes? > Me siento...(feliz, enojado, etc.) = How do you feel? >  I feel...(happy, mad, etc.)



Para practicar...
Let's pretend you are writing a letter to a pen-pal in the captial of Venezuela.  (Do you know the name of the city?)  Click here to see if you were right In this letter you are trying to describe your daily life, and you are using your dictionary to compose the letter.  As you are writing, you encounter many verbs ending in "se".  Demonstrate what you just learned by putting the verb in the correct form based on the given subject.  Be careful- some verbs may be irregular or stem-changing.  Try not to let this confuse you, just keep your concentration.  Conjugate the verb as you know how, and put the correct reflexive pronoun (based on the subject) before the verb.
 
yo (despertarse [ie])
tú (acostarse [ue])
mi madre (lavarse)
mi padre y yo (acordarse [ue])
mis hermanos (sentarse [ie])
yo (irse)
mi hermana (desmayarse)
tú (colocarse)
mi tío y yo (esconderse)
mis amigos (despedirse [i])


Go check your answers.
 

To practice some more, and to see what you know, do the activities at studyspanish.com   Of course, you need to take the test and have the results sent to me.
 

¡Buena suerte!
Adiós


 
 











*You put the reflexive pronoun in front of the main verb, except in the following situations: Regardless of where you put the pronoun, it must agree with the subject.
 

Caracas
 
 

me despierto, te acuestas, se lava, nos acordamos (Did you remember that there is no stem-change in nosotros?), se sientan, me voy, se desmaya, te colocas, nos escondemos, se despiden