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Reflexive Pronouns

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2014-12-22 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick

What are Reflexive Pronouns?

In a sense, the reflexive pronouns are really just a special case of indirect objects. Remember, the indirect object answers the questions “to whom/for whom”, so if I say, in Spanish, “I brush my teeth”, “teeth” are the direct object, but I’m brushing them “for me”:

  • Me cepillo los dientes diariamente.
  • Me los cepillo diariamente.

Reflexive Pronouns in Spanish

Here are the reflexive pronouns used in Spanish:

Person Singular Plural
me nos
te os
se se

Notice that 3rd person singular and plural reflexive pronoun is se. The verb form will clarify whether the doer of the action is singular or plural.

Some reflexive verbs in Spanish don’t “feel” reflexive to speakers of English, but are always reflexive in Spanish nonetheless. And thus, the required reflexive pronouns are required.

For example, in English, we generally say things like:

  • I am going to shower.
  • I am going to shave.
  • I’m going to brush my teeth.

These actions are very clearly reflexive, even though in English we don’t explicitly say “myself” in those cases. Clearly, we are doing the brushing of our teeth and we are receiving the action of brushing. For us, in English, we just don’t use the reflexive “myself” every time it is implied.

In Spanish, however, if an action is reflexive, we must use the reflexive pronouns. To restate the above examples:

  • Voy a ducharme, or, Me voy a duchar.
  • Voy a afeitarme, or, Me voy a afeitar.
  • Voy a cepillarme los dientes, or Me voy a cepillar los dientes.

Frequency of Use

For the frequency with which the reflexive object pronouns are used, see the following excerpt from the Frequency Dictionary:

#Freq.Vocab ItemPart of SpeechEnglish
19sepronounhimself, herself, itself (3rd person reflexive pronoun)
yourself (formal 2nd person reflexive pronoun)
235mepronounme, to me, myself (1st person sing. object pronoun)
365nospronounus, to us, ourselves (1st person plural object pronoun)
4136tepronounyou, to you, yourself (fam. 2nd person sing. object pronoun)
51373ospronounyou all, to you all, yourselves (familiar 2nd person plural object pronoun)