Spanish reflexive pronouns are words that are used to indicate whom or what will be affected by a verb or action. These types of pronouns are very useful for lots of different topics in the language. They are not the same as reflexive verbs, but both of them are strongly related as we will soon see in this lesson. We have included a chart for reflexive pronouns in Spanish plus many examples and simple explanations on how to use them in real life. Let’s start…
The definition and placement of reflexive pronouns in Spanish
Spanish grammar is a little tricky to explain, so we will ask you to carefully analyse the following definition of Spanish reflexive pronouns:
Reflexive pronouns in Spanish are a special type of pronouns that unlike those such as “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 reflexive pronoun “ME” indicates that I am the one waking up early.
In a previous lesson on reflexive verbs, we explained 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 VESTIR represents the verb in infinitive form and SE is a pronoun. Take a look at the examples in the following picture including some sentences with the reflexive verb BAÑARSE:
Spanish reflexive pronouns chart and placement
Let’s discuss a little about Spanish reflexive pronouns placement. They are always placed before a conjugated verb they are related to, just like the pronouns “ME” and “SE” in these two examples: (Yo) me baño (I take a shower) and “Ella se acostumbró a su trabajo” (she got used to her job). They could also be placed after a verb in infinitive to form a reflexive verb like “BAÑARSE” as we saw above. Keep in mind that the reflexive pronoun we use must match the subject in the sentence, which means that after a subject pronoun like YO, we will use the reflexive pronoun ME, and after NOSOTROS we will add NOS. You must memorize which Spanish reflexive pronouns corresponds to each personal pronoun. Here is a chart showing this relationship:
Making sentences using Spanish reflexive pronouns: examples + audio
Reflexive pronouns will tell us 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 said “Ellos se bañaron cuando llovía“, then it would mean that the activity of “bathing” affected them or that they did that themselves somehow.
It is important to notice that not all verbs in the language have a reflexive form, so this type of pronouns will not be used for all verbs or in all situations. Also, remember that each personal pronoun has its corresponding reflexive pronoun, as shown in the chart above. If we replace the reflexive pronoun with another one that does not correspond to the personal pronoun, then the reflexive pronoun will become an indirect object pronoun, for example:
- “Yo me visto” (where ME is a reflexive pronoun)
- “Yo os ayudo” (where OS is an indirect object pronoun that tells who I’m helping).
Reflexive pronouns in Spanish 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 by yourself) and “Ellos se bañan” (They take a shower by themselves). Here are some examples of sentences using Spanish reflexive pronouns properly to talk about different topics. Check how each subject pronoun matches each reflexive pronoun.
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
As a final note, remember that we do not need to use reflexive pronouns for all verbs. In fact, knowing when to use them is a challenge even for native speakers when we are little, and we learn to master them as we grow up by making a lot of mistakes. Make sure to check the related lessons and good luck learning Spanish – ¡Hasta pronto!