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Reflexive Verbs - Part 1 (The Present Simple Tense)
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Video Lesson
Summary of Lesson
Defining what reflexive verbs are, why they exist and in what general way they are used as compared to normal verbs.
Looking at how reflexive verbs are formed. Using the present simple tense to illustrate the general way in which reflexive pronouns are used when forming reflexive verbs.
Looking at some of the most common reflexive verbs and how they might be used in the present simple tense in everyday speech.
How most reflexive verbs can be used both reflexively and non reflexively.
   
  What you can learn from this lesson
   
Understanding the concept of reflexive verbs and what meaning they attempt to convey.
Understanding the significance of reflexive object pronouns as used with reflexive verbs. How each one translates into English and realising that not all reflexive verbs in Spanish are used reflexively in English.
Knowing how reflexive verbs are formed with present tense verbs as compared to the formation rules of normal verbs.
Learning and remembering some of the most common reflexive verbs that are used in the Spanish language.
Appreciating how different verb tenses and whether a verb is regular or irregular affect the way a verb is formed.
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PART 1

 

The first part of the lesson seeks to introduce what reflexive verbs are and why they exist. It also attempts to explain how reflexive verbs are used and formed in comparison to normal verbs in both English and Spanish.

 

What are reflexive verbs?

 

The best way to explain what reflexive verbs are, is by looking at an example.

 

Normal verbs
caminar to walk
comer to eat
vivir to live

 

Reflexive verbs
llamar
se
=
llamarse
to be called
caer
se
=
caerse
to fall down
ir
se
=
irse
to leave

 

All of the above verbs are shown in their infinitive forms. Normal verbs end in either AR, ER or IR but all reflexive verbs have ‘se’ added to the end of the verb.

 

Reflexive verbs exist in both English and Spanish so that a verb can be used to describe actions that relate to ourselves. The following example uses the Spanish verb llamarse (to be called), to illustrate this concept. At this stage the intention is not to explain how Spanish reflexive verbs are formed, this is explained in part 2 of the lesson.

 

llamarse (to be called) reflexive translation more usual translation
me llamo I call myself I’m called
te llamas you call yourself your called
se llama he/she calls himself/herself he’s / she’s called

 

In English, reflexive verbs use the reflexive pronouns myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, and themselves with the verb to show which form of ourselves is being described. In Spanish the concept is the same except the reflexive pronouns are different; me, te, se, nos, os se.

 

Making sense of translations

 

Much of the time verbs that are reflexive in Spanish are not translated into English in a reflexive way. With the verb llamarse (to be called), it is much easier to see how reflexive verbs are used in both English and Spanish. In reality however even the verb llamarse is not very often used reflexively in English. I’m called for example is used much more frequently than I call myself!

 

Often, the translation of Spanish reflexive verbs into English make no sense at all. Take the example used above; ponerse (to put on).

 

me caigo - I fall down NOT I fall down myself or I myself fall down

te caes - you fall down NOT You fall down yourself or you yourself fall down

 

The translation into English simply doesn’t make sense. Therefore, one of the most important things to remember when learning reflexive verbs in Spanish is that there is a good chance they won’t be used reflexively in English!

 

PART 2

 

This part of the lesson looks at how reflexive verbs are formed in the present simple tense. To form a reflexive present tense verb two things are always needed.

 

1 - The present tense formation of the verb as per normal present tense formations.

2 - The reflexive pronoun which is used with the verb formation to make it reflexive.

 

Reflexive pronouns

 

The reflexive pronouns that are used with verb formations to make them reflexive correspond to the normal personal pronouns that are used with verb formations.

 

personal pronoun reflexive pronoun translation
yo me myself
te yourself
él se himself / itself
ella se herself / itself
usted se yourself (polite)
nosotros/as nos ourselves
vosotros/as os yourselves
ellos se themselves
ellas se themselves
ustedes se yourselves (polite)

 

The next step is to position the reflexive pronoun with the normal verb construction and the personal pronoun. The following example uses the reflexive verb llamarse (to be called).

 

personal pronoun reflexive pronoun normal formation translation
yo me llamo to call myself
te llamas you call yourself
él se llama he calls himself / itself
ella se llama she calls herself / itself
usted se llama you call yourself (polite)
nosotros/as nos llamamos we call ourselves
vosotros/as os llamáis you (all) call yourselves
ellos se llaman they call themselves
ellas se llaman they call themselves
ustedes se llaman you (all) call yourselves (polite)

 

¿Cómo te llamas? - What do you call yourself? (What is your name?)

Me llamo Alex. - I call myself Alex. (I’m called Alex.)

 

Things to note

 

1)      The formation of the verb is no different to the normal formation of the verb in the present simple tense.

2)      It is the reflexive pronoun that makes the verb reflexive.

3)      The position of reflexive pronouns in present simple tense constructions are BEFORE the verb.

4)      Take care when translating into English. Many Spanish reflexive verbs are not used reflexively in practice in English.

 

PART 3

 

The third part of this lesson takes a look at some of the most common reflexive verbs you will come across in Spanish and how they are translated into English.

 

acostarse

to go to bed

afeitarse

to shave

arreglarse

to get ready

asustarse

to get scared

bañarse

to bathe

caerse

to fall (down)

casarse

to marry, get married

despedirse

to say goodbye to

despertarse

to wake up

divertirse

to have a good time / enjoy oneself

enojarse

to get angry

Irse

to go away, to leave

jubilarse

to retire

lastimarse

to hurt oneself (not always physically)

levantarse

to get up

llamarse

to be called

meterse

to interfer, to get into

mudarse

to move (house), relocate

ponerse

to put on (clothes) / to become

preguntarse

to wonder

preocuparse

to preoccupy, worry oneself

quebrarse

to break (a bone)

quedarse

to stay, remain, be left with

reirse

to laugh

secarse

to dry oneself off

sentarse

to sit down

sentirse

to feel (illness, emotion)

vestirse

to get dressed

 

For a more complete list of reflexive verbs take a look at the ‘word lists’ section of this website.

 

Example sentences

 

Cada mañana me afeito.  - I shave every morning.

Siempre nos divertimos. - We always enjoy ourselves.

Me pregunto si hará lluvia.  - I wonder if it will rain.

¿Cómo te sientes?  - How do you feel?

Él se sienta a mi lado. - He sits next to me.

 

PART 4

 

The last part of the lesson explains how most reflexive verbs can also be used in a non reflexive way. This is illustrated as follows by looking at the verb llamarse (to be called).

 

1- llamarse - to be called

2 -llamar - to call (vocally or by telephone)

 

The difference between the two verbs is that the reflexive one always has ‘se’ added to the end of the verb in it’s imperative form.

 

1 - ¿Cómo te llamas? - What do you call yourself? (What is your name?)

2 - (Yo) le llamo a Renso cada día. - I call Renso every day.

 

Notice that in the second sentence a reflexive pronoun is not used. Instead an indirect object referring to Renso is used (le).

 

To see how each of the reflexive verbs illustrated in part 2 of the lesson can be used in a non reflexive way take a look at the words list section of this website. Below is a short list of some of the most common verbs that are used interchangeably in this way.

 

noraml verb meaning reflexive verb meaning
ir to go irse to go away, leave
arreglar to mend arreglarse to get ready
caer to fall caerse to fall down
poner to put ponerse to put on / to become
sentir to feel (physically) sentirse to feel ill (emotionally)
despedir to fire / sack despedirse to say goodbye

 

ir (to go)

(Yo) voy al centro de deportes dos veces cada semana.

I go to the sports centre twice a week.

 

Irse (to go away, to leave)

(Yo) me voy a las cuatro cada tarde.

I leave at four every afternoon.

 

That concludes this lesson on reflexive verbs part 1. If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

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Reflexive Verbs - Part 1 (The Present Simple Tense)
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