What are the reflexive verbs in Spanish?

Hello everybody!

 

This week I want to give you an overview about the reflexive verbs. But, what are the reflexive verbs in Spanish? They are, basically, verbs whose action falls on the subject of the sentence.

For example, in English we say “I brush my hair” (it’s my hair, not yours, and I do it), but for Spanish we say “Yo me peino” (I make an action myself and “me” specifies that the action falls on me).

 

To know how to form these verbs, we must know the reflexive pronouns. Let’s see how they work using the verb peinarse as an example.

Yo me peino                           Nosotros nos peinamos

te peinas                            Vosotros os peináis

Él se peina                              Ellos se peinan

As you can see, the only difference with the rest of the verbs is the presence of the pronouns, but the conjugation (first group in this case) is the same. Let’s see some other examples:

Yo me levanto (levantarse, stand up)

te vistes (vestirse, get dressed)

Ellos se lavan los dientes (lavarse los dientes, brush the teeth)

Ella se ducha (ducharse, take a shower)

Note that the pronoun must agree with the subject. Otherwise, the meaning might be different! For example:

Yo me levanto (levantarse, I stand up)

Yo te levanto (levantar, I lift you up)

Why so? Well, it is because of the pronouns. For the reflexive verbs, we use the reflexive pronouns. In the second example (yo te levanto) it’s not a reflexive pronoun, but a direct object pronoun.

The difference is about the action:

Yo me levanto: I lift myself, I stand up, because the pronoun agrees with the subject.

Yo te levanto: I lift you up, it’s not reflexive, because the pronoun doesn’t agree with the verb, so the action falls on the object, not on the subject.

This is one example of how the meaning can change depending whether or not the verb is reflexive. Other examples are:

Llamar (to call) – Llamarse (to be named)

Asustar (to frighten) – Asustarse (to get frightened)

Ir (a) (to go somewhere) – Irse (de) (to leave a place)

Despedir (to fire -job-) – Despedirse (to say goodbye)

There are also some reflexive verbs whose action falls on two different people, not only one. In this case, the subject must be plural. For example:

Se miran a los ojos (both of them are looking at each other’s eyes)

Nos abrazamos (I hugged him and he hugged me)

Nos conocimos en enero (we met in January, I met him and he met me)

These are actions that basically need at least two people to be developed. Of course, you can embrace somebody and maybe that person doesn’t want to embrace you back. In this case, it wouldn’t be a reflexive verb, as you are embracing that person but it’s not reciprocal. For example:

La abracé: I hugged her, but she didn’t. This is not reciprocal, therefore it’s not reflexive pronoun, but direct object pronoun.

I could keep talking about this so long time, but I want this to be an overview, not something boring. I hope you liked it and got something clear about the reflexive verbs in Spanish. If you have any question or suggestion, just let me know in the comments or write me an email!

¡Hasta la próxima!

Spanish idioms with Spanish cities

Hello!

Today I want to introduce you some Spanish places. Not their history or culture, but some expressions we say using Spanish cities or villages.

 

El que se fue a Sevilla perdió su silla

If we translate it literally, it means “the one who went to Seville lost his chair”. We use it when you sit on somebody’s seat when he stands up. If that person asks you to stand up because he was sitting there, you just say that he lost it!

El que se fue a León perdió su sillón

This one is very similar to the previous one, and sometimes we use them together. Its translation would be “The one who went to León lost his armchair”.

(These two would get Sheldon Cooper crazy.)

Irse por los cerros de Úbeda

“Go through Úbeda’s hills”. Úbeda is a village located in Jaén, in South Spain. It is often used when, telling a story, instead of going to the point, the teller starts saying many useless details.

It seems that, before an important battle, a High Command of the King Fernando III disappeared and nobody knew where he was. When he finally showed up, he said that he was lost in Úbeda’s hills.

Estar entre Pinto y Valdemoro

This is a very… weird one. Pinto and Valdemoro are two towns located in Madrid, and we use it to express indecision. Why so? Well, there are several theories about its origin, but I’ll explain my favorite one: the drunk.

It is said that, in ancient times, Pinto and Valdemoro were separated by a stream. There was a drunk who liked to jump over the stream saying “now I’m in Pinto, now in Valdemoro, and now back to Pinto!”. Once, he fell into the stream and said “now I’m between Pinto and Valdemoro!”.

Ancha es Castilla

“Castilla is wide”. Castilla is a region in the middle of Spain, and it’s quite big. We use this idiom when we mean to act deliberately. But, why Castilla and not any other region?

In Reconquest era, Castilla was a place where few people lived, so it was the perfect place to start a business you wanted nobody knew about. Of course, we are talking about both legal and illegal businesses.

 

Lepe

No, this is not an idiom, but it is a very important part of Spanish jokes. Lepe is a town in Huelva, South Spain, that is often used to make jokes based on puns and stupid people. And no, I’m not saying these people are idiots, it’s just our language! The jokes are similar to the Polish jokes to the people from the USA. Something like:

Why do people from Lepe have a ketchup packet on the ear? To listen salsa.

Estar en Babia

It means “to be in Babia”. But what does it really mean “estar en Babia”? Well, if somebody tells you “estás en Babia”, you need to pay more attention, basically. We use this idiom to express that someone is thinking on a different thing than he should be. Like when you’re in a meeting but you’re not paying attention because you’re thinking about the pizza you’re going to have for dinner.

This expression is also due to our ancient kings. Babia is a Spanish region, located in León, where the kings used to stay for holidays. When somebody would go to the Palace to consult the King during his vocational period, they said: “El rey está en Babia”, so people knew he wouldn’t face his real responsibilities.

 

No se ganó Zamora en una hora

Why do we say “Zamora wasn’t won in one hour”? Well, its meaning is very easy to guess: you will not get difficult things solved in a short time, but you’ll need long time to get results.

The point about using Zamora here is that, in the year 1072, the city was besieged for seven months by Sancho II de Castilla, who wanted to conquer the city from his own sister. The end? Sancho II was murdered and didn’t get Zamora.

We still have more idioms using Spanish locations, so if you’ve liked it, please go here and read the second part!

Thank you. 😊