Spanish Reflexive Pronouns


Reflexive pronouns are used with a verb to indicate that 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. Therefore, reflexive pronouns match the subject of the verb.

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First of all, what are pronouns? Remember that pronouns are words that take the place of a noun.

In our previous lesson about Subject Pronouns we learned about the pronouns yo, tú, él, ella, usted, nosotros, vosotros, ellos, ellas and ustedes. In this lesson we will talk about a different type of pronoun – Reflexive Pronouns.

Reflexive Pronouns are used when talking about actions performed on, or to, oneself. These pronouns can be paired with the previously mentioned subject pronouns!

How do we know when to use reflexive pronouns? The great thing about reflexive pronouns is that they are always paired with a reflexive verb. We know a verb is a reflexive verb because it will have the ending “se” attached to the infinitive form of the verb. (ex: despertarse, levantarse, bañarse)

The reflexive pronouns are:


Notice how these pronouns “live” in the same boxes as the subject pronouns that we know? They also correlate with those subject pronouns. For example, “me” is used in place of “yo” (or in conjunction with it if you prefer). For example, you can say: me despierto (I wake up) or yo me despierto (I wake up).

NOTE: It is helpful to use a subject pronoun with a reflexive pronoun in the case of the reflexive pronoun “se”. Because “se” can refer to él, ella, usted, ellos, ellas or ustedes, it helps to use a subject pronoun to clarify about whom you are speaking. For example, if we were to just say “se ducha”, we would know someone is taking a shower, but it could be él, ella or usted! (*we know it’s not ellos, ellas or ustedes based on the ending of the verb – see how there is no “N” on the end?). So, to clarify we would add “ella se ducha” to say, “she takes a shower”. 

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The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
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I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
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I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.