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Episode 48: Reflexive Verbs, Part 3

Actualizado: 8 nov 2023

In this final part of our 3-part series on reflexive verbs (see Episodes 46 and 47), we will look at 10 examples of verbs that significantly change their meaning when you use them as reflexive verbs.


About These Examples

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Just as with our last episode, I used the Spanish frequency dictionary by to choose some of the most frequently used verbs for these examples. I then selected the following list based not only on ranking, but also on meaning and relevance (using to what I wanted to talk about in this episode.

HUGE Differences Between Normal and Reflexive Use

So let's look at 10 examples where you want to make sure you know what you're doing when you use them as reflexive verbs:

  1. Pasar (to happen, to pass over or through something, to pass a class) vs. Pasarse (to pass to each other, like notes; Pasarse a = to change sides) Pasar: ¿Qué pasa? What's up? Pasó cuatro horas cocinando la comida. He spent four hours cooking the meal. Pasarse: Las chicas se pasaban recados durante la película. The girls were passing notes during the movie. Pasarse a: Durante el juego, mi compañero de equipo se pasó al enemigo y yo perdí. During the game, my teammate switched to the enemy and I lost. *Pasársele = to forget to do something, it slips your mind, to overlook or miss something. (I would argue that this is more of a passive voice being used rather than just a reflexive, which is why I'm including it after the others instead of with them. But it's a useful phrase, so I wanted to include it. ) Pasársele: Se me pasó hacer la tarea. I forgot to do the homework.

  2. Salir (to leave, to go, to go out with) vs. Salirse (to leak out, to resign, to recuse) Salir: Durante un fuego, debes salir del edificio de inmediato. During a fire, you should exit the building immediately. Salirse: ¿Por qué quieres salirte de la empresa? Why do you want to leave the company? *You don't want to accidentally say "I will resign at 6" when all you really wanted to say was "I'm leaving at 6." Salgo a las 6 vs. Me salgo a las 6. **For a really helpful article on when to use the different "to go" verbs - dejar, salir and irse - check out this article by ¡Tell Me in Spanish!

  3. Valer (to cost, to equal, to be valid) vs. Valerse (to make use of or take advantage of; requires "de" as the following preposition) Valer: El reloj antiguo vale más de mil dólares. The antique watch is worth more than one thousand dollars. Valerse: Te valiste de tu relación con el político para ganar poder. You took advantage of your relationship with the politician to gain power.

  4. Dejar (to leave alone or leave behind, to stop, to allow) vs. Dejarse (to neglect yourself, let yourself go) Dejar: ¡Dejó mis llaves en el coche otra vez! He left my keys in the car again! Dejarse: Cuando su hermano se murió, ellos se dejaron. When their brother died, they let themselves go.

  5. Volver (to go back/return) vs. Volverse (to turn or become something) Volver: ¡Volvamos a casa! Es muy tarde. Let's go back home! It's really late. Volverse: ¡Juan se ha vuelto loco! Juan has become crazy! (See the difference between the two verbs? Volver is simply an act - a directional movement - but Volverse involves your state of being, changing who you are. You could say something like "Ella se volvió tediosa." This means, "She became tedious." You could also replace tediosa with other adjectives, like imposible or chistosa.) *For fun, while researching this episode, I came across a song by David Bisbal and Danna Paola called "Vuelve" - how appropriate, right? :D **This is another one of those verbs that we could talk about all day. If you want to learn more about "become" verbs like volverse and hacerse, check out these articles by Lawless Spanish and Deliberate Spanish (the one by Deliberate Spanish is very, very in-depth. I'm really excited to have found it!)!

  6. Quedar (to be leftover) vs. Quedarse (to stay) Quedar: Me quedan $2. I have $2 left. (*Please note, this is not a reflexive verb! If you take a closer look, quedan is the plural form of quedar, whereas me is the indirect object pronoun for I. It's kind of like Me gustan - there's not really a direct translation into English. But if you were to be talking about someone in the third-person plural, "They", it wouldn't be se quedan, but les quedan. That's another way to tell that it's not a reflexive, but a verb with an indirect object.) Quedarse: Me quedé adentro mientras él daba un paseo. I stayed inside while he went for a walk. **Interestingly, quedar can also mean "to arrange to meet". That's so handy! Ex: Mi amiga y yo quedamos a las 10 en la biblioteca. My friend and I arranged to meet at 10 at the library.

  7. Disculpar (to forgive or pardon) vs. Disculparse (to apologize or say sorry) Disculpar: Por favor, disculpe él; todavía está aprendiendo las reglas. Please excuse him; he's still learning the rules. Disculparse: ¡Discúlpate! ¡Qué terrible decir eso. (You) Apologize! What a terrible thing to say.

  8. Dar (to give) vs. Darse (Mexican colloquialism for to give up or surrender or Colombian colloquialism for to bump something (must be followed by en)) Dar: Quiero darte un abrazo. I want to give you a hug. (*Note that this is not a reflexive verb, but rather an infinitive verb (dar) with an indirect object pronoun (te) attached.) Darse: ¿Te das? O ¿quieres seguir? Do you give up? Or do you want to keep going? Él se dio en el codo cuando entró en el coche. He bumped his elbow when he got in the car.

  9. Lamentar (to be sorry, regret or lament something) vs. Lamentarse (to be sorry for yourself, to complain or grumble) Lamentar: Ella lamenta sus acciones. She regrets her actions. Lamentarse: Cuando lamentarte, no ayudas a nadie. When you feel sorry for yourself, you aren't helping anyone. *You could argue that this is more of a subtle difference, as it makes sense that if you make lamentar a reflexive verb, the meaning would become to be sorry for yourself. I kept it on this list, though, because I think there is a really important distinction between repenting of something you did wrong and wallowing in self-pity. One attitude is helpful and allows you to improve yourself, the other is very negative and keeps you frozen where you are.

  10. Disparar (to shoot or fire a weapon, to shoot a goal in soccer) vs. Dispararse (to fly off the handle) Disparar: Disparó la ballesta al blanco. He shot the crossbow at the target. Dispararse: Cuando el trato fracasó, se disparó. When the deal fell threw, he flew off the handle.

And that concludes our 3-part series on Reflexive Verbs! Thank you for sticking with me through all three parts. ^_^ I hope you found this helpful! Remember, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me at :)


Cultural Tip: Argentina

Country Facts

Name: Republica Argentina, or Argentine Republic

Size: According to the CIA World Fact Book, Argentina is a little less than 3/10ths of the USA. It covers most of the South American continent, and while width-wise it as about 1 to 2 states wide, it is longer than the USA.

Location: On the southern end of South America, between Chile and Uruguay.

Government Type: It is a presidential republic, meaning it's a representative democracy with a presidency separate from the legislative body (just like Colombia).

Capital City: Buenos Aires

Religion: It is nominally Roman Catholic at 92%, since only 20% of actively practice.

Official Language: Spanish (although Italian, English, German, French, and the Indigenous languages of Quechua and Mapudungun are spoken as well).

Currency: Argentine Peso (ARS).

Brief History

In 1816, the United Provinces of the Rio Plata (what is now Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay) declared independence from Spain. The countries eventually splintered off, forming the countries we know today. Between 1860 and 1930, Argentina received a lot of European immigrants (with the most coming from Italy and Spain). There has been a bunch of political unrest since WWII, although it sounds like Argentina has been in a period of "reform and international reintegration" since they elected Mauricio Macri as president in 2015, according to the CIA World Factbook.



Intro and Closing Music by Master_Service from Fiverr

Cultural Tip Transition Music edited from song by JuliusH from Pixabay

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