Spanish Reflexive Pronouns are essential to start learning the language!
All the Spanish textbooks for beginners start with a construction based on Spanish Reflexive Pronouns which is not easy at all for those who don’t speak a Romance language: “¡Hola! me llamo Juan”. The use of reflexive pronouns in Spanish is as useful as complex, so we are going to explain it clearly:
* Careful! Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns are the same as Reflexive Pronouns made exception for the third person. We will recognise the Reflexive Pronoun because it will always coincide with the subject: Ellos me ayudan (Direct Object Pronoun); Ellos me envían una carta (Indirect Object Pronoun); Ellos se levantan (Reflexive Pronoun).
A common problem for Spanish learners is the different position of the Reflexive pronoun: as you can see it’s very easy as it can be placed only in two positions. Its natural position is in front of the verb as an independent particle:
Me levanté temprano – Se ha roto la pierna (with a conjugated verb) –> I got up early – He/she broke his/her leg
No se preocupen, todo está bien (negative sentence) –> Don’t worry, everything is fine
¡No te muevas o disparo! (Negative Imperative) –> Don’t move or I will shoot
However we can find it at the end of the verb, as part of it in three cases:
Esos son los problemas del casarse pronto y mal (Infinitive) –> These are the problems when you get married early and with the wrong person.
¡Duérmete de una vez! Que mañana tengo que madrugar (Positive Imperative) –> Go to bed at once! Tomorrow morning I have to get up early!
Enfadándote no conseguirás nada (Gerundio) –> Getting angry you won’t achieve anything.
*Careful! The Infinitive takes the third person of the Reflexive Pronoun at the end, as part of the word. Remember that when you put the pronoun at the end the stress can change and the word can be stressed on the third to the last syllable, so we have to add the graphic accent.
The most basic use of the Reflexive Pronouns is related to the fact that the action falls back on the subject: Juan se lava los dientes. However, in Spanish we might come across other more complex uses:
EXPRESS A CHANGE OF STATE
Sorprenderse –> Surprise
Deprimirse –> Get depressed
Enterarse –> Inform
Morirse –> Die
Alegrarse –> Cheer up
Preocuparse –> Worry
EXPRESS A COMPLETED ACTION
Se comieron toda la cena –> They ate all the dinner
Se terminaron las preocupaciones –> They finished off all the worries
Se ha acabado la sal –> The salt finished
CHANGE OF MEANING
Acordar: acordaron un precio razonable –> They agreed a reasonable price
Acordarse: nadie se acordó de su cumpleaños –> Nobody remembered his/her birthday
Ir: voy a casa de Juan –> I go to Juan’s house
Irse: me voy (salgo de aquí) –> I’m leaving
Mudar: la serpiente mudó de piel –> The snake shed its skin
Mudarse: se mudó mucho para la boda –> He/she got changed for the wedding
Ponerse: se puso rojo –> He/she went red, blushed
Convertirse: se convirtió al catolicismo –> He/she converted to Catholicism
Volverse: se volvió loco –> He/she got mad