This lesson appears in issue 178 of Jávea Grapevine
DOING IT TO YOURSELF!
The first reflexive verb we usually use is llamarse– to call oneself / to be called. So we’re already fairly familiar with the concept.
|(Yo)||Me||llamo||I call myself|
|(Tú)||Te||llamas||You call yourself|
|(Él/Ella)||Se||llama||He/she calls him/herself|
|(Nosotros/as)||Nos||llamamos||We call ourselves|
|(Vosotros/as)||Os||llamáis||You all call yourselves|
|(Ellos/Ellas)||Se||llaman||They call themselves|
In use, the ‘se’ at the end of the full form of the verb is taken off & moved around to the beginning & then changed to ‘fit’ the person – & the rest of the verb is then conjugated (made to fit the person doing it) in the usual way. The ‘se‘ forms the ‘pronoun‘.
¿Cómo te llamas? = What do you call yourself?
Me llamo Carlos. = I call myself Carlos
These verbs are only used when talking about someone doing something to themselves. Take the verb LAVAR. That would be used when discussing washing something – a car for instance:
Lavas el coche – you wash the car.
You would use LAVARSE when describing someone washing themselves, or part of their body.
If the phrase contains only the conjugated verb, the pronoun has to move to the beginning, as shown in the table.
However, if there is more than one verb, the pronoun an either be literally stuck to the end of the full form of a verb, or a gerund (ING), or moved to the beginning before the conjugated verb.
Using DUCHARSE (to shower oneself)
Estará duchándose más tarde, Jorge. / Se estará duchando más tarde, Jorge
Both are grammatically correct, & neither is habitually used more than the other.
Using DESPERTARSE (to wake oneself)
No queremos despertarnos tan temprano mañana /
No nos queremos despertar tan temprano mañana
If we don’t use the reflexive verb, it isn’t clear as to whom we don’t want to wake!
Using PINTARSE (to paint oneself)
Se habían pintado las uñas y los labios en color rojo antes de salir, las chicas.
The pronoun, se, has to go before the conjugated verb in this case, because neither the infinitive nor the gerund is used. Also note that we don’t need to use possessives in the Spanish version, because the use of the reflexive verb makes it clear that they painted their own nails & lips!
Using PROBARSE (to try something on oneself)
¿Te vas a probar el vestido antes de comprarlo? Ana / ¿Vas a probarte el vestido antes de comprarlo? Ana
Using QUITARSE (To remove something from oneself)
Hay que quitarse la ropa antes de bañarse
Using CEPILLARSE (to brush oneself)
¿Os habéis cepillado los dientes? Luis y Jorge
Some verbs change subtly when they are used reflexively. DORMIR (to sleep) & DORMIRSE (to fall asleep).
Me dormí muy temprano anoche & dormí diez horas.
Other verbs change meaning completely, such as ABRIR (To open) & ABRIRSE (To open oneself/confide ) – although when you think about it, it’s logical!
Por favor, no abras la puerta, tengo que abrirme a ti
There are of course many more reflexive verbs – some of which can be found here, under the ‘grammar’ category.