Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs are verbs whose action reflects back onto the subject and require a reflexive pronoun. Let’s consider the example of acostarse which means to go to bed. The base verb here is acostar which means to put to bed. Adding se to acostar makes it reflexive and changes the meaning to to put oneself to bed. This is a literal translation, of course. Not many English speakers say: “I put myself to bed at 10:30.” They would instead say: “I go to bed at 10:30.” Still, the point of this should be clear: with reflexive verbs, the subject of the sentence receives the action of the verb. The se at the end of acostarse is a reflexive pronoun and this is how you identify reflexive verbs. Verbs ending in se are reflexive verbs and must be accompanied by a reflexive pronoun whenever they are conjugated. The following chart lists all of the reflexive pronouns in Spanish alongside their corresponding subject pronouns.

Subject Pronoun Reflexive Pronoun
yo me
él / ella / usted se
ellos(as) / ustedes se
nosotros(as) nos
vosotros(as) os

Whenever you conjugate a reflexive verb, you will precede the verb with one of the reflexive pronouns from the chart above depending on the subject of the sentence. Let’s conjugate the reflexive verb levantarse (to get up):

LEVANTARSE (to get up)

Subject Pronoun Verb Conjugation English
yo me levanto I get up
te levantas you get up
usted se levanta you get up
él (ella) se levanta (s)he gets up
nosotros(as) nos levantamos we get up
vosotros(as) os levantáis you all get up
ustedes se levantan you all get up
ellos(as) se levantan they get up

Notice how the root verb levantar is conjugated just like any regular AR verb. The only thing different about reflexive verbs is having to include the reflexive pronoun when conjugating them. Let’s look at another example. The verb secarse means to dry oneself off and is conjugated as follows:

SECARSE (to dry off)

Subject Pronoun Verb Conjugation English
yo me seco I dry off
te secas you dry off
usted se seca you dry off
él (ella) se seca (s)he dries off
nosotros(as) nos secamos we dry off
vosotros(as) os secáis you all dry off
ustedes se secan you all dry off
ellos(as) se secan they dry off

Again, in the above example, the base verb secar is conjugated like any other regular AR verb. The only challenge is to remember to include the reflexive pronoun. Not all reflexive verbs are regular, however. Many reflexive verbs possess some of the irregularities (including stem changes) that you see in many Spanish verbs. For example, the verb poner (to put; to place) is often used reflexively as ponerse meaning to put on (clothes). Let’s conjugate ponerse now.

PONERSE (to put on)

Subject Pronoun Verb Conjugation English
yo me pongo I put on
te pones you put on
usted se pone you put on
él (ella) se pone (s)he puts on
nosotros(as) nos ponemos we put on
vosotros(as) os ponéis you all put on
ustedes se ponen you all put on
ellos(as) se ponen they put on

The only difference between poner and ponerse is that ponerse requires you to include a reflexive pronoun. That’s really all there is to it. As stated earlier, you can identify a reflexive verb by the se ending. Let’s take a look at a few complete sentences containing reflexive verbs.

Juan se pone un abrigo cuando hace frío. Juan puts on a coat when it’s cold.
Yo me levanto a las seis de la mañana cada día. I get up at six in the morning every day.
Miguel se acuesta a las diez de la noche. Miguel goes to bed at 10:00 PM.
¿Siempre te pones un sombrero antes de salir de la casa? Do you always put on a hat before leaving the house?
Mis amigos se acuestan muy tarde. My friends go to bed very late.

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