The Grammar Page

Grammar Basics



Spanish 101A

Spanish 101B

FAQs & About drlemonĀ©®

Email me!

Creative Commons License by Deborah R. Lemon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

Reflexive constructions are used when you are doing something to, at, or for yourself. We say in English "I asked myself..." or "I hurt myself..." Myself is a way of looking back (reflecting) upon what "I" am doing or experiencing.

In Spanish, we use a Reflexive Pronoun when the subject and the direct object are one and the same.

For example, we learned how to say:

Juan mira a María. Juan looks at María.
Juan la mira. Juan looks at her.

In the second sentence, we replaced María's name with a direct object pronoun la.

But what if Juan looks in a mirror? In English we say, "Juan looks at himself." How do we say it in Spanish?

  • Is it "Juan lo mira"? No, because that means "Juan looks at him or at it."
To be able to say "Juan looks at himself", we need to use the Reflexive Pronoun.

The Reflexive Pronouns are:

Yo Me   Nosotros Nos
Te   Vosotros Os
Él, ella Se   Ellos, ellas se
Usted Se   Ustedes se

So, since the reflexive pronoun for the third person singular form (él, ella, usted) is se, we write:

Juan se mira Juan looks at himself

Like the direct and indirect object pronouns, Reflexive pronouns come directly before the conjugated verb or attach to an infinitive, present participle or affirmative command.

For example Vestirse (to get dressed)

Juan se viste Juan gets dressed
Juan está vistiéndose [-or-]
Juan se está vistiendo
Juan is getting dressed
Juan va a vestirse Juan is going to get dressed
Juan Muñoz, por favor, ¡vístase! Juan Muñoz, please, get dressed!

Verbs mean different thing when they are used reflexively and non-reflexively. For example, we learned how to say "I'm called..." using the expression Me llamo...

This is the Reflexive form of Llamar "to Call": Llamarse

Me llamo Débora (reflexive) My name is Deborah (literally, "I call myself Deborah")
Yo llamo a mis amigas (not reflexive) I call my friends (on the phone)
Se llama Juan (reflexive) He calls himself Juan
Juan llama a la policía (not reflexive) Juan calls the police
Me baño (reflexive) I take a bath
Baño el perro (not reflexive) I bathe the dog