Reflexive Verbs and Pronouns in Spanish

In Spanish, when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same, the verb is reflexive. Reflexive pronouns (ie. me, te, se, nos, os) are used with reflexive verbs to express that a person is performing an action for or to him or herself. In fact, reflexive verbs require the use of reflexive pronouns to show that the direct object of the verb in a sentence is also the subject. Reflexive pronouns are very similar to indirect object pronouns. Reflexive pronouns are formed using the same person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (singular, plural) as the subject of the sentence. The following are the reflexive pronoun forms used with reflexive verbs in Spanish.

1st person, Singular
2nd person, Singular
himself; herself; itself; yourself
3rd person, Singular
1st person plural
2nd person, Plural
themselves; yourselves
3rd person, Plural

While not so common in English, reflexive verbs are very common in Spanish. Actions relating to daily routines and personal care are often expressed using reflexive verbs and pronouns. Read and listen to the following examples of reflexive verbs, then repeat each out loud.

I shower five times a week.
Me ducho cinco veces a la semana.
Do you comb your hair every day?
¿Te peinas el pelo cada día?
She was talking to herself.
Ella se hablaba a si misma.
They see themselves in the mirror.
Se ven en el espejo.
We washed our hands.
Nos lavamos las manos.

In Spanish, many verbs can be either reflexive or non-reflexive. When a verb is reflexive the infinite ends in "se". The following examples show Spanish verbs that can be either reflexive or non-reflexive. You'll noticed that in the sentences with reflexive verbs, the subject and object are the same. In sentences with non-flexive verbs, there isn't a reflexive pronoun, and the subject does not receive the action of the verb. Read and listen to each example below, then repeat each out loud.

I wash myself.
Yo me lavo.
I wash the car.
Yo lavo el coche.

I scratched myself.
Yo me rasqué.
I scratched the paint.
Yo rasqué la pintura.

When using the reflexive form of a verb, the reflexive pronoun must match the subject of he verb in person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (singular, plural.)
I go to bed.
Me acuesto.
You go to bed. (familiar)
Te acuestas.
She goes to bed.
Se acuesta.
We go to bed.
Nos acostamos.
You go to bed (familiar plural)
Os acostáis.
They go to bed.
Se acuestan.

Reflexive verbs always end in "se". However, by adding "se" to the end of some Spanish verbs you can make them reflexive. Consider the following examples.

to see one's self
to write to one's self
to talk to one's self
to buy for one's self

Spanish speakers often use reflexive verbs to express an emotional response to something. When a person gets angry or becomes sad this can be expressed using reflexive verbs and pronouns. Read and listen to the follow examples, then repeat each out loud.
I got angry when he called me a bad name.
Me enojé cuando me dijo una palabrota.
It makes you happy that your sister has arrived.
Te alegras que tu hermana haya llegado.
They get bored at church.
Se aburren en la iglesia.

Reflexive pronouns are often used to add emphasis in what would otherwise be a regular situation. When reflexive pronouns are used to add emphasis, they do not make the verb reflexive, the pronoun is simply inserted to add emphasis. Consider the following examples.
Eat it.
Eat it!

I ate the pizza.
Comí la pizza.
I ate up the entire pizza.
Me comí la pizza.

Study it.
Really study it thoroughly.

Reflexive pronouns are placed before conjugated verbs and negative commands.

I wash my hands.
Yo me lavo las manos.
Don't talk to yourself.
No se habla a sí mismo.

Reflexive pronouns are always attached to the affirmative commands. When a sentence has two verbs, or in the case of compound verbs, the reflexive pronoun can be placed before the conjugated verb or attached to the infinitive or present participle.

Take off your sweater.
Quítate tu suéter
Mark needs to wash his hair.
Marco se necesita lavar el pelo.
Mark needs to wash his hair.
Marco necesita lavarse el pelo.