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. 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, just like ME and SE 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 after the ending 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 subject 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.

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

The basic way to use Spanish reflexive pronouns in sentences

As shown in the image above, reflexive pronouns in Spanish are used to make clear who is affected by the verb in a sentence. Let’s illustrate this with an example; in the sentence “Yo me baño todos los días”, I am saying that I myself take soap and other things to bathe, that is, the action of “bathing” affects me; On the other hand, if I say “Ellos se bañaron cuando llovía”, then it means that the activity of “bathing” affected them.

It is important that you know that not all verbs in Spanish have a reflexive form, so this type of pronouns will not be used in all sentences. Also, note that each personal pronoun has its corresponding reflexive pronoun. If we change the reflexive pronoun by another that does not correspond to the personal pronoun, then the reflexive pronoun will become an indirect object pronoun, e.g. “Yo me visto” (ME is a reflexive pronoun) and “Yo os ayudo” (OS is an indirect object pronoun).

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

BAÑARSE – Yo me baño a las 7 de la mañana
BATHING – I bathe at 7 in the morning
DIVERTIRSE – Ella se divierte con sus amigos
HAVE FUN – She has fun with her friends
CONFUNDIRSE – Tú te confundes todo el tiempo.
CONFUSING – You get confused all the time.
OLVIDARSE – Nosotros nos olvidamos de la tarea
FORGET – We forgot about homework
DESPERTARSE – Vosotros os despertáis tarde siempre
TO WAKE UP – You wake up late always
ENOJARSE – Ellos se enojaron con el presidente
ENOJARSE – They got angry with the president

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!


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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