Reflexive and reciprocal pronouns are a matter of concern among our studens on You should know that there are different types of pronouns in Spanish, depending on their function: subject, direct object, indirect object, prepositional, reflexive and reciprocal. Most of them share the same form (‘me’ can be direct or indirect object, reflexive and reciprocal) but the third person can be a nightmare (‘lo’ is direct, ‘le’ is indirect and ‘se’ is indirect, reflexive and reciprocal).

All of these functions are even more difficult to learn when the pronoun ‘se’ is involved, because of its many uses. Today we’re going to focus on the concepts of reflexividad (reflexiveness) and reciprocidad (reciprocity).

Reflexive sentences in Spanish

Imagine you are in front of a mirror. What can you see? Your reflection in the mirror. In grammar, reflection means that the subject does an action, but at the same time, he or she is the receiver of that action.

In Spanish, we use pronouns to modify the verb and show the reflexiveness: me, te, se, nos, os, se.

“Por las mañanas me levanto, me lavo la cara y me afeito.”

Direct reflexive sentences

We can differentiate two kinds of reflexive sentences: direct and indirect ones. This name depends on the syntactic function of the pronoun. If the subject receives directly the action of the verb, we should use a direct object pronoun.

“Mi hermano se miró en el espejo.”

In the last example, my brother looks at himself in the mirror; he receives directly the action.



Indirect reflexive sentences

On the other hand, if the subject receives indirectly the action of the verb, we should use a indirect object pronoun. It’s usually used when a part of our body is the receiver of the action.

“¿Te has cepillado los dientes después de cenar?”

Now, the subject receives the action, of course, but his teeth suffer the consequences directly.

Reciprocal sentences in Spanish

In order to understand the concept of reciprocity, we need a plural subject. The actions done by one of them affect to the others, but at the same time, the actions of these last ones, affect to the first one as well. As Hannibal Leckter would say: ‘Quid pro quo, Clarice’ (something for something).

“El chico y la chica se besaron”

Direct reciprocal sentences

Following the reflexive sentences, reciprocal ones also make a difference depending on the function of the pronoun. The subjects might receive the actions directly:

“Los niños se pelearon en el parque.”

The children fought at the park, they suffered the consequences directly.

Indirect reciprocal sentences

However, if other object in the sentence receives the action in the first place, we must use an indirect object pronoun:

“Los jugadores se pasaron la pelota.”

The ball is affected directly by the action of the players.

Finally, don’t worry about the pronouns. We know it can be hard to master them but on we’ll help you learn them easily. Try our Grammar Course for different levels: you will learn grammar talking from the first day.