Chapter 16   --   Reflexive verbs

In English, actions which are received by the person doing the action are generally not distinguished in any way, unless there is a special reason to do so.  

For example, if I tell someone that I shaved this morning, it will be understood that I was the person who received the action of shaving, and no additional information is necessary.
In English, the reflexive forms are expressed by using words such as myself, yourself, and so on.

In Spanish, when a person performs an action, and also receives that action, a reflexive verb is used.   If no reflexive form is used, that fact means the action was directed to another person.

Let us look at the verb afeitar as an example.   The verb afeitar means to shave another person or to shave something.
The verb afeitarse means to shave oneself.   All reflexive verbs are combined with a pronoun.   Some examples follow.

I shave, am shaving

Yo me afeito  (me indicates I am shaving myself)

You shaved, did shave

te afeitaste

He or she will shave

Él, ella se afeitará

You (polite) would shave

Usted se afeitaría

Who shaved?

¿Quién se afeitó?

We used to shave

Nosotros nos afeitábamos

You shave, are shaving

Vosotros os afeitáis

They or you shave, are shaving

Ellos, ellas, ustedes se afeitan

Who washed their hands

Quienes se lavaron las manos

The pronouns are the same for all verbs regardless of group or tense. Some examples follow.

I will wash my hands.

Yo me lavaré las manos. (the verb is lavarse)

He was bathing.

Él se bañaba. (the verb is bañarse)

She already left.

Ella ya se fue. (the verb is irse)

In declarative statements, the pronouns precede the verb.

A command or request such as “Please, wash your hands.” will be translated as “ Por favor, lávese las manos.”
As can be seen, the pronoun follows the verb in these forms.

In dictionaries, verbs which are used exclusively in the reflexive form will be shown with se after the verb.
Verbs which can be used with or without reflexive forms will be shown with se in parentheses, or be indicated in some other way.


This book is available from under item number 3352644. Books purchased from Lulu are accompanied by a complete list of irregular verbs and all of their forms.

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