Reflexive verbs express what a person does to him/herself.
In other words, reflexive verbs are used when the person who performs the action is also the person who receives the action. For example: “I cut myself cooking”. The action reflects back on the subject. That is why they are called reflexive verbs.
Being a reflexive verb does not give the verb a new verb tense or conjugation. You conjugate the verb in the tense that you need just like any other verb.
What indicates that it is a reflexive verb is the use of a reflexive pronoun.
Let me show you how to use reflexive verbs. There are 15 examples in this lesson and flashcards to help you learn 29 commonly used reflexive verbs.
Examples of Reflexive Verbs in Action
Eu me cortei cozinhando. = I cut myself cooking.
- The verb Cortar is conjugated in the past tense. Nothing new here: Eu cortei.
- Now notice that ME before the verb. That is the reflexive pronoun associated with Eu.
- In this sentence, it works as “myself” in English.
Ana se cortou cozinhando. = Ana cut herself cooking.
- The verb Cortar is conjugated in the past tense: Ana cortou.
- Before the verb, you see the reflexive pronoun SE which is associated with Ele, Ela.
- In English you use “herself” or “himself”
|Personal Pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun||Exemple|
|Eu||me||Eu me cortei. (I cut myself)|
|Tu||te||Tu te cortaste. (You cut yourself)|
|Você||se||Você se cortou. (You cut yourself)|
|Ele||se||Ele se cortou. (He cut himself)|
|Ela||se||Ela se cortou. (She cut herself)|
|A gente||se||A gente se cortou. (We cut ourselves)|
|Nós||nos||Nós nos cortamos. (We cut ourselves)|
|Vocês||se||Vocês se cortaram. (You cut yourselves)|
|Eles||se||Eles se cortaram. (They cut themselves)|
|Elas||se||Elas se cortaram. (They cut themselves)|
A verb can be reflexive in Portuguese, but not in English
Often times a verb is reflexive in Portuguese, but not in English. That is, it would not take “myself”, “himself”, etc. in English, but it is reflexive in Portuguese.
- As crianças se divertem no parque. = Kids have fun in the playground.
So how do you know when you need to use a reflexive pronoun?
You just know. There is no simple rule here. You need to learn which verbs are reflexive and when. Check out our flashcards below to learn 29 common reflexive verbs.
Should you place the reflexive pronoun before or after the verb?
Usually you have the option to place the pronoun before or after the verb.
In writing, especially formal writing for business or school, the preference is to place the pronoun after the verb.
- Ana cortou-se cozinhando. = Ana cut herself cooking.
Use a hyphen when you place the pronoun after the verb,.
In spoken Brazilian Portuguese, we usually put the reflexive pronoun before the verb:
- Ana se cortou cozinhando. = Ana cut herself cooking.
With that said, there are a few situations in which you need to place the pronoun before the verb even in formal Portuguese. You don’t have an option in these situations.
When You Need to Place the Pronoun Before the Verb
- When you have a negative word in the sentence
- Eu não me cortei. = I didn’t cut myself.
- Paulo nunca se diverte nas festas. = Paulo never has fun at the parties.
- Ninguém se cortou. Que bom! = No one got cut. That’s nice!
- When you have a question word in the sentence
- Quem se cortou? = Who got cut?
- Quando Ana se cortou? = When did Ana cut herself?
- After relative pronouns such as que and quem
- Ana é a pessoa que mais se corta na cozinha. = Ana is the person who cuts herself the most in the kitchen.
There are a few other rules. These are the most common.
When You Have Two Verbs
When you have two verbs in a row, you can place the reflexive pronoun:
- between the two verbs; do not use a hyphen in Brazil
- or after the second verb, using a hyphen
In spoken Brazilian Portuguese, it is more common to place it between the verbs.
- Eu vou me vestir. = I am going to get dressed.
- Eu vou vestir-me. = I am going to get dressed.
- Diana quer se levantar. = Diana wants to get up.
- Diana quer levantar-se. = Diana wants to get up.
When You Cannot Place the Pronoun Before the Verb
You cannot start a sentence with a reflexive pronoun.
But I need to say that this may be the most disrespected grammar rule in spoken Brazilian Portuguese. In fact, I will even recommend that you break the rule in order to sound more natural in Brazil.
- Chamo-me Luciana. = My name is Luciana. (This sounds very formal in Brazil)
- Me chamo Luciana. = My name is Luciana. (This sounds more natural in Brazil)
Do Brazilians Always Use Reflexive Verbs?
Well, they should. But as you know, sometimes people develop different ways of speaking in different parts of the country.
The rules above are the official rules for the whole country. But in some parts of Brazil you will hear some reflexive verbs used without the reflexive pronouns.
Should you do the same? If you live in one of these parts of Brazil, you may find it easier to speak like everyone else. But keep in mind that it sounds wrong to those who use the reflexive verbs correctly.
13 Examples with Common Reflexive Verbs
- Cristina se apaixonou pelo Brasil.
= Cristina fell in love with Brazil.
- João e Clara se apaixonaram à primeira vista.
= João and Clara fell in love at first sight.
- Daniel se arrependeu de ter saído do emprego.
= Daniel regretted leaving his job.
- Ana está se arrumando para ir ao casamento de Priscila.
= Ana is getting ready to go to Priscila’s wedding.
- Ana geralmente não gosta de se maquiar.
= Usually Ana does not like to put on makeup.
- Ana se veste rápido.
= Ana gets dressed quickly.
- João não gosta de se barbear.
= João doesn’t like to shave.
- Eu te dei o endereço errado. Desculpe. Eu me enganei.
= I gave you the wrong address. Sorry. I made a mistake.
- Eu me levanto às 7 durante a semana. E você?
= I get up at 7 during the week. How about you?
- Como você se chama?
= What is your name? (Literally: How are you called?)
- A gente se divertiu muito no casamento.
= We had a lot of fun at the wedding.
- Cadê a Ana? Ela foi embora sem se despedir?
= Where is Ana? Did she leave without saying goodbye?
- Não estou me sentindo muito bem hoje.
= I am not feeling very well today.
Flashcards: 29 Reflexive Verbs
Tips to use the flashcards
- Use the dropdown menu below the cards to choose a study mode.
- In Flashcard mode, click Options on the top right side to enable sound and choose if you want to see the English or the Portuguese card first, or if you prefer to see both cards at the same time.
- Try the different study modes to make it more fun and see what works better for you.
- If you like games, choose Scatter or Space Race study modes.
We have more flashcards in our Portuguese Starter Kit. Check them out too!
One of the best ways to retain new vocabulary and make sure that you are using your grammar correctly is to use it in context. Your brain will retain the new words better if it sees them in real-life use.
If you have a Portuguese instructor, practice the reflexive verbs with your teacher. A good instructor will facilitate your learning through carefully selected class activities and exercises.
If you are looking for a great Brazilian Portuguese instructor, Book a Trial Lesson with a Street Smart Brazil teacher to see how we can help you speak Portuguese comfortably and correctly.