|llamarse to be named|
|me llamo||nos llamamos|
|se llama||se llaman|
A reflexive verb, or pronominal verb, is a verb that is accompanied by a reflexive pronoun. This verb construction is used when a person performs an action to or for him/herself. In other words, the subject of the verb and the direct object of the verb are the same person. It is important to note that reflexive verbs can sometimes be unintuitive for English speakers because they are not very common in English yet they are used quite a bit Spanish. So it is important to learn not just how to form reflexive verbs but also when to use them.
You have probably already seen the reflexive verb llamarse when you learned to introduce yourself in Spanish, as seen in the first example below. Another typical use of reflexive verbs is personal care and emotions, as seen in examples two and three.
To conjugate reflexive verbs, the verb is conjugated according to the subject and the reflexive pronoun matches subject in person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) and in number (singular or plural). In the example, levantabas is conjugated in the second person singular and te is also second person singular. Also note that reflexive verbs can appear as infinitive as well such as bañarte because the conjugated verb levantabas acts as an auxiliary verb.
There are two places where reflexive pronouns can be placed, as seen in the example above.
- Before a conjugated verb
- Attached to the end of the verb, ONLY IF the verb is not conjugated, such as infinitives or gerunds or if the verb is an affirmative informal command.
Reflexive Actions and Emotions
Reflexive verbs often express reflexive actions, that is, the subject performs the action on itself, like bañarse, to bathe, despertarse, to wake up, sentarse, to sit down or an emotional response to something, like enojarse, to get angry, alegrarse, to get happy, aburrirse, to become bored, enamorarse, to fall in love, calmarse, to calm down,preocuparse, to worry. These verbs can be used as 1) reflexive verbs or 2) non-reflexive verbs if the action is being done to someone other than the subject. Notice how in the first example, the verb preocupar is used reflexively, meaning someone worries about something. Whereas in the second example the verb preocupar is not reflexive, meaning that something worries someone. In this example, the direct object me is and the subject eso.
Some verbs, when in the regular or reflexive form, change their meaning as seen in the table below.
|Verb||Used Reflexively||Used Non-Reflexively|
|dormir||to sleep||to fall asleep|
|ir||to go||to go away, to leave|
|llamar||to be named||to call|
|llevar||to carry||to take away|
|negar||to deny||to refuse|
|probar||to try, to taste||to try on|
Compare the difference in meaning between the reflexive verb llamarse and the regular verb llamar, to call in the examples below:
A few verbs can only be reflexive (burlarse, to make fun of, quejarse, to complain, arrepentirse, to regret, atreverse, to dare, equivocarse, to make a mistake, darse cuenta de, to realize, etc.). These often do not even to describe a reflexive action, it is just the grammatical form they take.
Many times the English translation will use the verb get instead of using a reflexive construction. See in the following examples how the English translation does not uses a reflexive verb where Spanish does.
With Body Parts
Unlike English, when reflexive verbs are used with parts of the body, they take the definite article (el, la, los, las) rather than a possessive determiner as in English: