Reflexive Verbs – some basic uses

The last few months have been an ideal time to practice your Spanish and this month we are looking at Reflexive Verbs.  Below is the verb we looked at last month, but this time I will put the main meanings in as well.

Me levanto – I get up

Te levantas – you get up

Se levanta – s/he gets up

Nos levantamos – we get up

Os levantáis – you (plural) get up

Se levantan – they get up

Before moving on to other examples I will just mention that although we are looking at these verbs in the present tense at the moment, they of course work in all tenses.  From what we have studied so far we can say, for example:

Me he levantado – I have got up

Nos levantábamos – We used to get up

Se están levantando – They are getting up

Some people find these changes of person and tense rather hard to come to terms with, which is why I have mentioned them now, so they don’t come as a shock later on.  The fact is that the more you learn, the more you can apply to previous knowledge to extend the range of things you can say.

Back to the present tense though! Let’s think about other things we do for, or to, ourselves which are therefore Reflexive in Spanish. 

Morning is the time we prepare ourselves to face the outside world and therefore is rich in Reflexive Verbs.  First things first though! Before we get up, we usually wake up, although that might not always be the case.

First let’s look at the verb ‘to wake up’ in its Non-Reflexive form:

‘To wake up’ another person is despertar.

To say that I wake up my children in the morning is: Despierto a mis hijos por la mañana.

Let’s look at this sentence for a moment.  The subject is ‘I’, which would be ‘yo’, but here we have missed it out.

The verb is ‘despertar’ in its first person singular ‘I’ form.

Now we notice something else – it is a root changing verb!  Remember them? 

despertar’ is an ‘E to IE’ verb, so the first person singular is ‘despierto’ (and NOT ‘desperto’).

The object of the verb is ‘mis hijos’ – ‘my children’.  They are the ones who receive the action of the verb.  The word ‘a’ is added in front of objects of verbs when they are people rather than things.

por la mañana’ is the additional information that is tacked on to the end of the main part of the sentence.

However, before I wake my children up, I have to wake myself up!

When I wake up on my own, rather than waking up someone else, this is expressed by a reflexive verb ‘despertarse’.  Therefore ‘I wake up in the morning’ is ‘Me despierto por la mañana’, or in full ‘Yo me despierto por la mañana’.

The fact that I wake up with the aid of an alarm clock or a hungry cat is irrelevant here!   See you next month!

Jane Cronin’s ‘Step by Step Spanish’ articles are available as e-books at where you can also obtain Jane’s ‘Step by Step Internet Spanish Course’.