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Spanish Language/Reflexive verbs (Pronominal verbs)


Could you tell me how reflexive verbs work in spanish
like dormirse, what would that mean exactly
because by like the verb dormir, yo duermo would mean I sleep but what would like me duermo mean? What exactly is the difference between regular spanish verbs and reflexive verbs
Thank you and any answers you have are greatly appreciated


There are actually different kinds of pronominal verbs in Spanish (the name for verbs that go with a reflexive pronoun), and not all of them actually express the typical reflexive meaning we imagine.

First, there are those verbs that really do refer to an action being done to oneself:   Me llamo (I call myself), Me lavo (I wash myself), Me cepillo los dientes (I brush my own teeth), etc.

Then, there are another kind where the action is not really reciprocal, but the reflexive pronoun adds an additional nuance to the verb.  The example you mentioned, "me duermo" is one of those.  If you just want to say  "I sleep 8 hours", there is no need for the reflexive pronoun.  You can say "Duermo 8 horas."  "Me duermo" gives the additional meaning of "I fall asleep."  So, to say "I go to sleep at 10", you can say "Me duermo a las 10".  Or with the case of a person who is narcoleptic, they could say "Me duermo en todas partes."    There are other examples of similar verbs with a reflexive pronoun that express another subtler meaning to the verb, but not a reflexive action.   Some are similar to "dormirse" in that they express something that happens suddenly, or that reflect a change in state... like "ponerse triste"  (get sad), deprimirse (get depressed), etc.

Another kind of subtle meaning that a reflexive pronoun can add is in the case of "comerse," which is NOT a reflexive action.  Rather than just "eat", it means something like "eat it all up"... So  "me comí todas las papas fritas"

There are other kinds of uses for the reflexive pronouns as well, which I am sure you will keep discovering through your studies of Spanish.

I hope this helped clarify things for you!  Maybe reading this will help a bit, too.  

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Brandee Strickland


I can answer questions about the Spanish language itself, as I studied Spanish academically and also spent a significant amount of time living in Chile (as a teacher of English). I can also help with issues of translation, and with interpreting slang or other cultural anecdotes. As an experienced teacher, of both EFL and Spanish, I can answer questions as well about teaching, classroom practice, and the use of technology.


I am a native speaker of English but have studied Spanish since a young age, as well as living in Chile for 5 years. I learned Spanish as a student myself, and have also taught introductory and intermediate level Spanish courses both privately and at the University level. At the graduate level, I have studied linguistics and sociolinguistics, as well as focusing on language teaching and the use of technology in the classroom.

University of Calgary, Canada; Universidad de Concepcion, Chile

Strickland, B., & O'Brien, M. G. (2013). A Review of the Literature on Technology in Second and Foreign Language Learning. Calgary: University of Calgary. Strickland, B. (Summer 2012). Communities of practice in the language classroom: Theory and reality. ETAS Journal. Strickland, B. (2009). De Gardner a Bajtin: La comunicacion mediada por ordenador y su impacto en la clase de lenguas. University of Calgary (Canada), ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. MR54572. Strickland, B. (2009). El mito de Narciso en la poesía española de los Siglos de Oro. Espéculos: Revista de estudios literarios, 40.

I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Psychology from Bowdoin College in the U.S. I completed an M.A. in Spanish and Second Language Acquisition and a PhD dissertation in the same field, both at the University of Calgary in Canada and currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Universidad de Concepción in Concepción, Chile.

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