When and How to Use Spanish Reflexive Pronouns

Spanish reflexive pronouns are words used to indicate whom or what will be affected by a verb or action. They are words like ME in the phrase ME GUSTA (I like to…). These types of pronouns are very useful for a lot of different topics in the language. They are not the same as reflexive verbs but they are strongly related as we will see in this lesson, which will also present a chart with Spanish reflexive pronouns plus lots of examples and simple explanations on how to use them in real life. Let’s start… 

What are Spanish reflexive pronouns? – Los pronombres reflexivos

Spanish grammar is a little tricky to explain, so we will ask you to carefully analyse our definition for Spanish reflexive pronouns:

Spanish reflexive pronouns are a special type of pronouns that unlike those like “Yo, tú…”, do not refer to a subject but an object and indicate who is affected or will be affected by an action (verb), e.g. “(Yo) ME despierto temprano” where the pronoun “ME” indicates that I am the one who wakes up early.

In our lesson on reflexive verbs, we also explain that reflexive verbs and pronouns are not the same thing. A reflexive verb is simply a verb in infinitive plus a reflexive pronoun, e.g. VERTIRSE, where the original verb is VESTIR and SE is a pronoun. Here are two sentences using the reflexive verb ENAMORARSE with two different reflexive pronouns (to fall in love with).

Spanish reflexive pronouns examples and practice
Los pronombres reflexivos en español

Spanish reflexive pronouns chart and placement

Let’s talk about the placement of Spanish reflexive pronouns. They are normally placed before the verb they are related to when used by themselves, just like ME and LAS in these two examples: (Yo) me llamo Alex (My name is Alex) and “Ella se acostumbró a su trabajo” (she got used to her job). They will be placed at the end of a verb when we want to form a reflexive verb. In addition, Spanish reflexive pronouns will be matched to subject and person, so after a pronoun like YO, we will add ME, and after NOSOTROS we will add NOS. Here is a chart for Spanish reflexive pronouns with the person they belong to and their translation into English.

Subject PronounReflexive PronounVerb (bañar)
YoMeBaño
Bañas
Él/Ella/UstedSeBaña
NosotrosNosBañamos
VosotrosOsBañáis
Ellos/UstedesSeBañan

The basic way to use Spanish reflexive pronouns in sentences

Spanish reflexive pronouns are used to make clear who we are talking about in a sentence or who is affected by an action. Let’s illustrate this with an example; if I need help from you, I would ask you “¿Me puedes ayudar?” with the pronoun ME as it is “Yo” who needs help, but if you are the one who needs my help, then I would say “¿TE puedo ayudar? as TE is the pronoun that indicates that it is “TÚ” who needs help. Now, if I am with a group of people, then I cannot say “YO” but “NOSOTROS”, in which case I would need to ask using the corresponding Spanish reflexive pronoun to ask for help for us (NOS), that is “¿NOS puedes ayudar?“. You can check the chart for reflexive pronouns above to see how these three examples use the appropriate reflexive pronoun for each subject.

The same rule can be applied in the rest of the examples, simply making sure that the pronoun you use tells who will be affected by an action. These kind of pronouns are particularly useful when talking about your daily routine, for actions like “Yo me baño” (I take a shower – by myself implicitly), “Tú te bañas” (You take a shower), “Ella nos baña” (She showers us), “Ellos se bañan” (They take a shower by themselves). Check some more audio examples using reflexive pronouns below:

Questions and sentences with Spanish reflexive pronouns

¿Me puedes ayudar?
Could you help me?
¿Tú te llamas John?
Is your name John?
¿Usted se baña todos los días?
Do you take a shower every day?
Ella se viste sola
She gets dressed by herself
¿Nos puedes ayudar?
Could you help us?
Ellos se encontraron en el parque.
They met in the park

Grammar quiz: Spanish reflexive pronouns

¡Hola!. It is quiz time! Now you will be able to practice Spanish reflexive pronouns with some simple exercises. This will help you evaluate if you understood the content of the lesson. Press START when you are ready.

As a final note, we do not need Spanish reflexive pronouns for all verbs. In fact, knowing when to use them is a challenge for native speakers when we are kids. Make sure to check the related lessons and good luck learning Spanish – ¡Hasta pronto!


Learn more with these other interesting lessons

2 Comments

  1. I am very confused in my understanding reflexive verbs are used when the action of the verb is reflected back onto the subject.(shaving yourself, loving yourself). Yo te amo is not reflective verb.

    1. Hi Gloria,
      Yes, reflexive verbs and pronouns are very confusing. We will improve the lesson to include some more examples. AMAR is not a reflexive verb, that is true, but you can add a reflexive pronoun in some cases for example: “Yo me amo (a mí mismo)” (I love myself), “(a ti) Yo te amo” (I love you – here the action is reflected onto the object “a ti” which is implicit) and “Ellos son lindos. Yo los amo” (They are cute. I love them – here LOS refers to ELLOS as well, even if you omit the first part of the sentence). You can do the same with many other verbs, for example: “(a ti) Yo te cocino el desayuno” (I cook breakfast for you). When you see a non-reflexive verb like GUSTAR, AMAR or COCINAR, think there is a prepositional phrase hidden at the beginning of the sentence, eg. “(A mi) me gusta…”, “(A ustedes) les cocino” and so on.
      “Esperamos que sea de ayuda”. ¡Gracias por expresar tu duda!

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