How to conjugate & use Spanish reflexive verbs in sentences

Los verbos reflexivos or reflexive verbs in Spanish are a special type of verbs that we use for actions that affect the subject of a sentence directly. In this lesson we will learn what are reflexive verbs in Spanish, the rules to conjugate these verbs and how to use them in simple questions and sentences. This lesson includes a conjugation chart for Spanish reflexive verbs, a list of VERBOS REFLEXIVOS and some rules to know when to use them. 

Reflexive verbs in Spanish: definition and structure – Los verbos reflexivos *

All verbs in Spanish represent an action that usually affects an object, for example: Yo barro el piso, where YO (I) is the subject, BARRER (sweep) is the action and EL PISO (the floor) is the object. Unlike other verbs, reflexive verbs in Spanish represent actions that affects the subject of the sentence not the object. Regular verbs usually end in -AR, -ER and -IR in their infinitive form, but reflexive verbs always end in any of these endings plus the reflexive pronouns -SE in their basic form, for example: BAÑAR + SE = BAÑARSE. The reflexive pronoun -SE may change depending on what we are trying to say. We could transform any simple verb into a reflexive verb, but sometimes it would not make sense. The following picture shows how we can create reflexive verb in Spanish and two different ways to use them in sentences. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Reflexive verbs in Spanish

The rules to conjugate reflexive verbs in Spanish (chart, list + examples) *

As the picture shows, a reflexive verb is divided in two parts: a verb in infinitive + a reflexive pronoun. The part of the verb with infinite form is conjugated following the rules for regular verbs so for a verb like BAÑARSE (BAÑAR + SE), we should follow the rule for verbs ending in –AR and conjugate that part as (Yo) baño, (Tú) bañas, (Él) baña and so on. Now, the trick is that the ending –SE in the verb BAÑARSE will also change depending on the pronoun or subject in the sentence and we will move it after the subject of the sentence, for example, -SE will change to –ME with the pronoun YO to say YO ME…, -SE will change to –TE with the pronoun TÚ to say TÚ TE and so on. We will add the conjugation of the verb after reflexive pronoun that corresponds to the subject, so joining the pieces, for BAÑARSE we would say Yo me baño, Tú te bañas… and so on. It is possible to omit the subject pronoun in the sentences, but not the Spanish reflexive pronoun which means that we could simply say ME BAÑO. Here is a conjugation chart for reflexive verbs in Spanish and how these rules are applied to BAÑARSE (to take a shower). Click on PLAY to listen to the example.

Subject pronoun Spanish reflexive pronoun Example Listen
Yo Me Yo me baño en la mañana
Tú, Vos Te te bañas muy rápido
Él, ella, usted Se ¿Ella se baña sola?
Nosotros Nos Nosotros nos bañamos en el río
Vosotros Os Vosotros os bañáis sin permiso
Ellos, ustedes Se Los niños se bañan juntos

Here is a list of other important reflexive verbs in Spanish that can be conjugated in a similar way: VESTIRSE (to get dressed), DORMIRSE (to go to sleep), ALISTARSE (to get ready), IRSE (to go), PONERSE (to put on), QUITARSE (to take off), ENCONTRARSE (to meet), MIRARSE (to see), ENOJARSE (to get angry), METERSE (to get in), SALIRSE (to get out) and LLAMARSE (to be named). The verb IRSE (to go) is conjugated the same way as other verbs, but the infinitive part (IR) is an irregular verb so you should be careful to use the right conjugation, for example: Yo me voy, Tú te vas… and so on. Other verbs are simple regular verbs but may need a stem change or an ortographic change, for example, SALIR is conjugated as SALGO for the pronoun YO so we should say Yo me salgo not Yo me salo. Make sure you are familiar with all these rules for regular verbs in Spanish and irregular verbs as well. The key is to know how to conjugate the verb in infitive form and then just add the correct reflexive pronoun for the subject.

Practicing the conjugations of reflexive verbs in Spanish

This is a quiz about reflexive verbs in Spanish and the way we conjugate them. Choose the best answer for each question in the quiz from the given options. You will receive a tip about “verbos reflexivos” every time you find a correct answer. Press Start to begin the quiz.
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How to use reflexive verbs in Spanish: activities, commands and obligations *

Spanish reflexive verbs can be used in simple sentences like the ones presented previously, or as in any of the examples presented in lessons like daily routines in Spanish and hobbies as well. Here are a few notes to learn how and when to use reflexive verbs in Spanish:

1. We use Spanish reflexive verbs in its basic form to talk about some activities that affect us directly in general, especially when we want to use any of these activities as the subject of the sentence, for example: Ejercitarse es bueno (Exercising is good) and Despertarse temprano es difícil. (Waking up early is difficult). Be careful because some verbs may not need a reflexive form like COCINAR (to cook), for example: Cocinar es mi pasatiempo (Cooking is my hobby). COCINAR is what we would call a non-reflexive Spanish verb. It always depends on what we are trying to say, for example the sentence Bañar al perro es divertido (Bathing my dog is fun) begins with BAÑAR not BAÑARSE because we want the verb to affect the object PERRO not everyone in general as it would mean if we said Bañarse es divertido (Taking a shower is fun). In other words, for Spanish reflexive verbs as activities, if you know then object of the sentence then use the verb in infinitive form only.

2. Reflexive verbs in Spanish may be used in commands like “¡Ya es hora! ¡Alístate!” or “¡Cómete toda la comida Alex!” where CÓMETE and ALÍSTATE are verbs in reflexive form. Here we only conjugate the verb following the rules for Spanish regular verbs and then add the corresponding reflexive pronoun at the end. Commands are often used for conjugations in the second person so for a verb like BAÑARSE, we would say Tú bañate, Usted bañese, Vos bañate, Ustedes bañense, Vosotros bañaos. We can apply this rules using names of people instead of the pronouns so for Alex (he), we would say Alex bañate, Alex duermete, Alex vistete and so on, all of them ending in the reflexive pronoun -TE.  It is important to mention that not all commands use Spanish reflexive verbs, for example: ¡Alex estudia! (not Alex estudiate as it would mean Alex study yourself not Alex study!). The verb CÓMETE that we used in the first example, would be used only as CÓME if we do not have the object LA COMIDA in the sentence: ¡Cóme Alex! or keeping the object ¡Cómete la comida Alex! Be careful

3. Spanish reflexive verbs may be used to talk about obligations like chores and to do this it is common to use the Spanish irregular verb TENER, for example: Yo tengo que alistarme (I have to get ready), Ellos tienen que irse (They have to go) or Tenemos que dormirnos (We have to go to sleep). The biggest difference in this case is that we keep the verb in infinitive form for all subject pronouns, but change the reflexive pronoun at the end depending on the subject of the sentence.

Using reflexive verbs in Spanish sentences and questions

It’s time to practice a little more about reflexive verbs in Spanish with another quiz. Complete each of the following sentences or questions with the correct form of the Spanish reflexive verb. Again, you will receive a tip every time you find a correct answer. Press Start to begin the quiz.

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