An example of a simple sentence using a reflexive verb is "Pedro se lava" (Pedro is washing himself). In that sentence Pedro is both the subject (the one doing the washing) and the object (the person begin washed). Note that the reflexive pronoun (in this case se) typically precedes the verb (although it can be attached to infinitives).
A full explanation of all the uses of reflexive verbs is beyond the scope of this lesson. However, as a beginner you should have at least a basic understanding of the ways reflexive verbs are used so you can understand them when you see or hear them. Here are the main ways such verbs are used:
The verb's subject is acting on itself: As in the example above, this is the most straightforward use of reflexive verbs, and it is certainly the most common way they are used in English. As explained in the lesson on reflexive pronouns, in plural form the pronoun can often be translated as "themselves" or "each other," depending on the context. Some examples:
- Puedo verme en el espejo. I can see myself in the mirror.
- ¿Qué te compraste? What did you buy yourself?
- Se estaban admirando. They were admiring themselves. Or, they were admiring each other.
- Pablo se habla. Pablo talks to himself.
- Me abstengo de votar. I am abstaining from voting.
- Teresa se arrepentió de sus errors. Teresa regretted her errors.
- Me resigno a no tener dinero. I am resigning myself to having no money.
- Quiero bañarme. I want to take a bath. Literally, I want to bathe myself.
- ¡Siéntate! Sit down! Literally, seat yourself!
- Voy a vestirme. I am going to get dressed. Literally, I am going to dress myself.
- Me afeito cada mañana. I shave every morning. Literally, I shave myself every morning.
- Patricia se acercó la casa. Patricia approached the house. Literally, Patricia brought herself closer to the house.
- Se llama Eva. Her name is Eva. Literally, she calls herself Eva.
- abonar, to pay money; abonarse, to subscribe (as to a periodical)
- abrir, to open; abrirse, to open up (in the sense of confiding in someone)
- acordar, to agree, to decide; acordarse, to remember
- acusar, to accuse; acusarse, to confess
- callar, to be quiet; callarse, to become quiet
- cerrar, to close; cerrarse, to close oneself off emotionally
- combinar, to combine; combinarse (plural forms), to take turns
- dormir, to sleep; dormirse, to fall asleep
- ir, to go; irse, to go away
- llevar, to carry; llevarse, to take away
- poner, to put; ponerse, to put on, to wear
- salir, to leave; salirse, to leave unexpectedly, to leak
The "reflexive passive": Often, particularly with inanimate objects, the reflexive form is used to indicate an occurrence without indicating the person or thing responsible for that occurrence. Such uses of the reflexive are typically the equivalent of passive verb forms in English, as in the following examples:
- Se cerraron las puertas. The doors were closed.
- Se habla español aquí. Spanish is spoken here.
- Se venden recuerdos. Souvenirs are sold, or souvenirs for sale.