In Spanish Grammar, Spanish Lessons


As Spanish students you often learn reflexive verbs early, and then don’t pay much attention to them again. That’s a mistake. Simply talking about washing yourself or taking a shower will not suffice for knowing about reflexive verbs in Spanish.  There are reflexive verbs that are used much more frequently and often not in enough Spanish students textbooks. In addition, there can be a lot of confusion when the reflexive form means something completely different from the non-reflexive form. Now it’s time to learn about some of the reflexive verbs that you should know but weren’t taught in Spanish class.

The first reflexive verbs you most likely learned were those that specified actions you perform on yourself:

Lavarse (to wash oneself)
Ducharse (to shower oneself)
Peinarse (to brush one’s own hair)

These are standard reflexive verbs in Spanish that show something you do to yourself. In these cases, their non-reflexive counterparts are also very close to their reflexive meaning.  Lavarse means to wash oneself, and just lavar (non-reflexive) simply means to wash something:

Me lavo antes de escuela = I wash myself before school
Yo lavo mi coche porque está sucio = I wash my car because it is dirty

For students: For a review of Reflexive verbs see course video Lesson 8

But this is not the end of reflexive verbs and how they work, for a couple reasons:

1. There are common reflexive verbs that don’t clearly refer to actions one does to oneself. For example:

  • divorciarse – to get divorced
  • quejarse – to complain

2. In some important cases the non-reflexive counterpart means something quite different from the reflexive version. This can be very confusing. For example:

  • acordar – to agree with / acordarse – to remember
  • despedir – to fire / despedirse – to say goodbye


5 non-traditional Spanish reflexive verbs you should know

In light of these complexities with reflexive verbs in Spanish, we chose 5 important ones for you to learn well. These five are used often in general conversations. Note the difference between their reflexive and non-reflexive versions.



QUEDAR – To make a date or a meeting, normally informal (day, hour, place)

Pedro y Ricardo quedaron ayer y fueron al cine
Pedro and Ricardo met yesterday and went to the movies

He quedado con mis amigos a las 20:00 en la Plaza Mayor
I met with my friends at 8p.m. at Plaza Mayor


QUEDARSE – To stay / remain in one place

Los trabajadores se quedan en la oficina hasta las 17:30
The workers stay at the office until 5:30 p.m.

¡Tienes que estudiar! ¡No puedes quedarte en la cama hasta las 12!
You have to study! You can stay in bed until noon!




MARCHAR – to march

Los soldados marchan por la calle con sus armas
The soldiers march in the street with their weapons

Las carrozas marchan en el desfile de Navidad
The floats march in the Christmas parade


MARCHARSE – to depart

Me marcho de casa a las 10, hacia a el aeropuerto
I leave from home at 10, for the airport

Si no te marchas ahora, podemos ir a comer juntos
If you’re not leaving now, we can go eat together




VOLVER – to return / go back

Yo vuelvo de España en dos semanas
I come back to Spain in two weeks

Lucía volverá al trabajo, después de su baja maternal
Lucy will go back to work, after her maternity leave


VOLVERSE – to turn around

Me volví para ver quién estaba detrás de mí
I turned around to see who was behind me

Ellos se volvieron en el cine porque los otros hablaban demasiado
They turned around in the movie because the others were talking too much




IR – to go

Voy a la escuela a las 8 de la mañana
I go to school at 8 in the morning

¿Vas al gimnasio tres veces por semana?
Are you going to the gym three times a week?


IRSE – to leave

Esta fiesta es estúpida. Yo me voy de aquí
This party is dumb. I’m going to leave

Raúl se va de España el 2 de Febrero
Raul is leaving Spain on the 2nd of February




PERMITIR – to allow

Sus padres no le permiten ir a la fiesta
His parents won’t let him go to the party

El jefe me permite salir 30 minutos antes
The boss lets me leave 30 minutes early


PERMITIRSE – to be able to afford something

No podemos permitirnos comprar esas casa, es demasiado cara
We can’t afford this house, it’s too expensive

Ellos tienen dinero, todos los veranos se permiten un buen viaje
They have money, every summer than can afford a good trip

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