Reflexive use of verbs in Spanish

What does reflexive mean?

Reflexive usually means that the thing or person doing something is doing it to itself.
or it means that the subject performs an action on itself.
A verb is used relexively where the object is the same as the subject. Look at this table.

English   Spanish
Subject Verb Reflexive Pronoun   Pronombre Reflexivo Verbo
I wash myself = me lavo
you cut yourself = te cortas
he dresses himself = se viste
she burns herself = se quema
it licked itself = se lamió
we call ourselves = nos llamamos
you kill yourselves = os matáis
they help themselves = se ayudan
Note: Somethimes to give more emphasis you can use "mismo" To see a list of examples of using mismo for emphasis click here.

Notes about reflexive verbs

The use of reflexives is much more common in Spanish than in English, this is because in Spanish reflexives can be used in cases where the action on the self is not so obvious.

For example many expressions with "get" (meaning become) would be reflexive in Spanish eg. to get lost = perderse. Another example of this is speaking about emotions eg to get angry = enfadarse.

By the way: An example of an English verb used in a reflexive way which is not an obvious self action is to enjoy oneself. (disfrutarse) There are many more of these in Spanish than in English.

See below for many examples.

Common reflexive verbs for everyday routines

English Spanish
get up
Why do I get up tired every day?
levantarse:
¿Por qué me levanto todos los días cansado?
wake up - feel
Why do I feel tired and sleepy when I wake up, even though I have slept for 10 hours or more?
despertarse - sentirse
¿Por qué me siento cansado y con sueño cuando me despierto, aunque haya dormido 10 horas o más?
wake up - brush teeth - shower
I wake up at eight, I clean my teeth and have a shower
despertarse - cepillarse - ducharse
Me despierto a las ocho, me cepillo los dientes y me ducho.
comb
If I comb my hair a lot, will it grow faster?
peinarse
¿Si me peino mucho el cabello, crecerá más deprisa?
shave
Why do male cyclists shave their legs?
afeitarse
¿Por qué los ciclistas varones se afeitan las piernas?
put make up on
If I put make up on now, will I be ugly when I am old?
I recommend that you don't put makeup on because makeup will ruin your face.
maquillarse
¿Si me maquillo ahora me quedaré fea cuando sea mayor?
Yo te recomiendo que no te maquilles porque el maquillaje arruina tu cara.
go to bed - get up
I go to bed with my mobile phone, I get up with my mobile phone.
acostarse - levantarse
Con el móvil me acuesto, con el móvil me levanto.
 

Common reflexive verbs which mean "get" or "become"

English Spanish
to get angry:
My girlfriend gets angry about nonsense.
enfadarse:
Mi novia se enfada por tonterías.
get drunk
I believe that almost all of us have got drunk more than once.
emborracharse
Creo que casi todos nos hemos emborrachado más de una vez.
get lost
Fear is a natural reaction when we get lost.
perderse
El miedo es una reacción natural cuando nos perdemos.
get ill
Influenza: what one should do in case of getting ill.
enfermarse
La gripe: lo que se debe hacer en caso de enfermarse
become
I get angry
ponerse
Me pongo enfadado
get used to
I will never get used to the slowness of administrative processes.
acostumbrarse
Nunca me acostumbraré a la lentitud de los procesos administrativos.

Common reflexive verbs in Spanish

English Spanish
to worry
Don't worry, be happy.
preocuparse
No te preocupes, sé feliz.
to stay
I am going to stay here.
quedarse
Voy a quedarme aqui
to sit down
Can I sit here?
Yes, sit down.
sentarse
¿Puedo sentarme aquí?
Sí, siéntate.
remember
Do you remember me?
acordarse
¿Te acuerdas de mí?
to be called
What is your name? What do you call yourself?
llamarse
¿Cómo te llamas?
to be quiet
Shut up!!
callarse
¡Qué te calles!
to go away, leave
I'm going - I'm off.
irse
Me voy.

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