Are you struggling with your pronunciation?
That's because you have yet to learn the Sounds of Portuguese.
Reflexive verbs are abundant in Portuguese and many of them are frequently used in everyday life.
It is very easy for language learners – especially those without any previous acquaintance with Romance languages – to leave out the reflexive pronoun when they need to say a reflexive verb. And yet, that little word can make all the difference!
More often than not, the non-reflexive version of a given verb means something different altogether. Note the different meanings of atrapalhar-se and atrapalhar in the following example:
|Ele atrapalhou-se e perdeu o controlo.|
He fumbled and lost control.
Saí porque não quis atrapalhar ninguém.
I left because I didn’t want to disturb anyone.
Also, many learners of Portuguese seem to struggle with getting to grips with the word order concerning the reflexive pronoun and the verb form itself.
In this article, you will learn (1) what reflexive verbs are and what they look like and (2) where to place the reflexive pronoun in relation to the verb form. You will also (3) get acquainted with commonly used Portuguese reflexive verbs and (4) learn about other uses of the reflexive pronoun -se.
So, let’s jump right into it.
- Reflexive verbs and pronouns
- Placement of the reflexive pronoun
- Commonly used reflexive verbs
- Other uses of the reflexive pronoun -se
Portuguese reflexive verbs and pronouns
Simply put, reflexive verbs imply that the subject and object of a sentence are the same. In other words, the actions denoted by reflexive verbs reflect back on the subject.
In English, reflexive verbs are paired with reflexive pronouns such as myself, yourself, and herself, for example, I washed myself. Analogously, the same applies to Portuguese, that is, the verb forms are paired up with reflexive pronouns.
Here’s what Portuguese reflexive pronouns look like:
|SUBJECT PRONOUNS||REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS|
And here’s an example of a Portuguese reflexive verb:
|Cortar-se (present tense)|
|* The first person plural of the verb drops its final -s when followed by the reflexive pronoun – from cortamos to cortamo(-nos).|
Notice that the reflexive pronouns above follow the verb forms. However, there are cases where they swap positions. We will be looking into that in a moment.
As mentioned in the introduction, there are considerably more reflexive verbs in Portuguese than in English meaning that many Portuguese reflexive verbs have non-reflexive English equivalents. Here’s an example:
|Lembrar-se (present tense)|
Again, Portuguese reflexive verbs have, more often than not, a non-reflexive counterpart with a different meaning. For instance, while the verb lembrar-se means remember, the verb lembrar means remind.
Nearly all English reflexive verbs are also reflexive in Portuguese, which, in that case, becomes quite intuitive (assuming that you have a good command of English).
Also, the English structure get + past participle normally has Portuguese reflexive equivalents (get injured > magoar-se; get dressed > vestir-se; get lost > perder-se; etc.)
There is, however, a big number of Portuguese reflexive verbs beyond the above-mentioned categories. In order to keep track of them might be challenging for many, especially if you are not acquainted with other Romance languages from before.
If that’s your case, well, you’ll probably have to learn them by heart. But don’t fret, further down you’ll find usage examples of commonly used Portuguese reflexive verbs to help you become familiarised with them.
Let’s now turn our focus to word order.
Placement of Portuguese reflexive pronouns
Reflexive pronouns are normally placed after the verb form and linked to it by a hyphen:
Vejo-me ao espelho todas as manhãs.
I see myself in the mirror every morning.
However, there are cases where the reflexive pronoun comes before the verb and, in that case, without the hyphen between them.
This word order change takes place when the reflexive verb is preceded by either (1) negative words (negative sentences), (2) question words (interrogative sentences), (3) subordinating conjunctions and prepositions, (4) adverbs, or (5) indefinite pronouns and determiners:
|1. Negative words||não, nunca, ninguém, nehum, nada, jamais|
|2. Question words||o que, porque, quanto/a(s), quando, qual/quais , onde, quem|
|3. Subordinate conjunctions and prepositions||que, para, por, porque, se, como, em, de, conforme, etc.|
|4. Adverbs||ainda, já, tudo, sempre, também, talvez, pouco, bastante, muito, tanto, tão, só, lá etc.|
|5. Indefinite pronouns/determiners||tudo, todo/a(s), bastantes, muito/a(s), pouco/a(s), alguém, algo, etc.|
Tips! The placement of object pronouns follows the exact same rules and patterns of reflexive pronouns. Learn more about Portuguese object pronouns in this article: Portuguese Object Pronouns: What Are They for and Where to Place Them.
Let’s look at a few examples.
1. Negative words
Reflexive pronouns precede the verb form in negative sentences:
|Eu não me penteei hoje.|
I didn’t comb my hair today.
Nunca te lembras do meu aniversário.
You never remember my birthday.
Ninguém se sentou à mesa.
No one took a seat around the table.
Nada se perde, tudo se transforma.
Nothing gets lost, everything is transformed.
2. Question words
Reflexive pronouns precede the verb form in interrogative sentences introduced by a question word:
|Onde te encontras?|
Where are you?
Como te chamas?
What’s your name?
Quem se atrasou?
Who got in late?
Quando é que te mudas para cá?
When are you moving here?
3. Subordinate conjunctions and prepositions
Reflexive pronouns precede the verb form when the reflexive verb itself is introduced by a subordinating conjunction or preposition:
|Acho que te enganas a ti próprio.|
I think you’re fooling yourself.
Ele fala comigo para se recordar dos bons velhos tempos.
He talks to me to remember the good old days.
Ele foi-se embora porque se chateou comigo.
He left because he got upset with me.
Ela soube como se apresentar.
Now she knew how to introduce herself.
O Rui acabou por se curar.
Rui managed to heal in the end.
Tenho de me lembrar de tomar o comprimido.
I must remember to take the pill.
Ela anda a falar em se mudar para o Brasil.
She has been talking about moving to Brazil.
É melhor se te levantares mais cedo .
It is better if you get up earlier.
Reflexive pronouns precede the verb form when the reflexive verb itself follows certain adverbs:
|Já te esqueceste de mim?|
Have you already forgotten me?
Talvez me divirta logo à noite.
Maybe I will have fun later in the evening.
Pouco me importa o que os outros pensam.
I don’t care about what other people might think.
Sempre te sentas ao meu ao meu lado para conversarmos?
Are you finally sitting next to me to have a chat?
Notice that the adverb sempre in the example above corresponds to finally in English. However, sempre also means always, which, in that case, comes after the verb form, thus causing no word order change:
|Enganas-te sempre na estrada.|
You always take the wrong road.
5. Indefinite pronouns
Reflexive pronouns precede the verb form when the reflexive verb itself follows an indefinite pronoun or determiner:
|Sinto-me muito sensível, tudo me magoa.|
I feel quite sensitive, everything hurts me.
Todos os homens se afastaram do elefante enraivecido.
All the men moved away from the angry elephant.
Alguém se magoou?
Did someone get hurt?
Poucos se lembram do meu aniversário.
Few bothered to remember my birthday.
Algo se aproximava.
Something was coming closer.
Future and conditional
In the future tense and conditional tenses, reflexive pronouns are normally placed between the stem and the ending of the verb form, all parts separated by hyphens.
|Levantar-me-ei mais cedo amanhã.|
I will get up earlier tomorrow.
|Levantar-me-ia mais cedo se não tivesse tão cansado. |
I would get up earlier if I were not this tired.
However, note that the tone in the examples above is quite formal. In everyday life, people would rather go with something like this:
|FUTURE EQUIVALENT (w/ the auxiliary verb Ir)|
Vou-me levantar mais cedo amanhã.
I will get up earlier tomorrow.
CONDITIONAL EQUIVALENT (Imperfect tense)
Levantava-me mais cedo se não tivesse tão cansado.
I would get up earlier if I were not this tired.
Reading tips! Learn more about Portuguese verb structures: Portuguese Verb Usage and Tenses: A Practical Guide Anchored to English.
Auxiliary + reflexive verb
When a reflexive verb is preceded by an auxiliary verb – for example, ir, começar, querer, poder, conseguir, estar, ajudar, costumar, among others – its reflexive pronoun can be placed either after (1) the reflexive verb, or (2) after the auxiliary verb (the latter sounds more colloquial).
Here’s an example with the auxiliary verb ir and the reflexive verb deitar-se:
|(1) Vou deitar–me agora.|
(2) Vou–me deitar agora.
I will go to bed now.
However, if the verbs are preceded by any of those words that we’ve covered above – question and negative words, as well as certain adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, or pronouns – the reflexive pronoun is best placed before the auxiliary verb:
|Já me vou deitar.|
I am already going to bed.
Todos se vão deitar cedo esta noite.
Everyone will go to bed early tonight.
Hoje não me vou deitar antes das 3 da manhã.
Today, I am not going to bed before 3 am.
Quando te vais deitar?
When are you going to bed?
Verb “ter” + reflexive verb
In Portuguese, we use the verb ter to build compound tenses, just the same way we use have in English (take for instance the English present perfect tense with the auxiliary have preceding the main verb).
In the case of Portuguese compound tenses, the reflexive pronoun normally follows the auxiliary ter, not the reflexive verb itself:
|Tenho–me deitado tarde.|
I have been going to bed late at night.
Again, if the verbs are preceded by any of those words we mentioned above, the reflexive pronoun is best placed before ter:
|Nunca me tinha deitado tão tarde antes.|
I have been going to bed late at night.
Pelas 21h, já todos se tinham deitado.
By 9 pm, everyone had already gone to bed.
The placement of reflexive pronouns in Brazilian Portuguese is somewhat more flexible. Often, they come before the verb:
|Ontem me lembrei de você.|
Yesterday you were on my mind.
Se sente aqui do meu lado.
Sit here by my side.
Further reading! Learn more about how European and Brazilian Portuguese compare: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – How Different Are They, Really?
Commonly used Portuguese reflexive verbs
Reflexive in both Portuguese and English
Since these verbs are also used reflexively in English, it will then be intuitive for you to use them reflexively in Portuguese. Here are a few examples of reflexive verbs in both languages:
|REFLEXIVE USE||NON-REFLEXIVE USE|
Ela apresentou-se como sendo líder de equipa.
She presented herself as being a team leader.
Amanhã vou apresentar a minha namorada aos meus pais.
Tomorrow I will introduce my girlfriend to my parents.
Ele convenceu-se de que conseguia, e conseguiu!
He convinced himself that he could do it, and he did it!
Tenta convencer o Rodolfo a fazer o mesmo.
Try to convince Rodolfo to do the same.
Ela cortou-se com uma faca.
She cut herself with a knife.
Ela cortou a laranja a meio.
She cut the orange in half.
Find oneself, be (location)
Encontro-me numa situação delicada.
I find myself in a delicate situation.
Encontro-me em Lisboa
I am in Lisbon
Find, run into
Encontrei os meus óculos, finalmente.
I found my glasses, finally.
Encontrei o Paulo no outro dia.
I ran into Paulo the other day.
|Enganar-se (a si mesmo)|
Fool oneself, deceive oneself
Ele está apenas a enganar-se a si mesmo.
He’s only fooling himself.
Vai enganar outro!
Go away and try to fool someone else!
You’re going to hurt yourself!
As tuas palavras magoaram o teu amigo.
Your words hurt your friend.
Põe-te no meu lugar.
Put yourself in my place.
Põe o livro na mesa.
Put the book on the table.
Devias ver-te ao espelho.
You should see yourself in the mirror.
Ela viu um espelho e comprou-o.
She saw a mirror and bought it.
|. . .|
Reflexive in Portuguese only
Oftentimes, the English equivalents of Portuguese reflexive verbs are non-reflexive. In that case, you can no longer count on your English skills to guess it right.
It might then be easy for you to say Portuguese verbs in their non-reflexive forms when, in fact, what you want to say requires the opposite.
See, most reflexive verbs also have a non-reflexive counterpart. However, both variants often mean different things, which can easily lead to misunderstandings.
Below, you have a list of commonly used reflexive verbs (and their non-reflexive counterparts) to help you become familiarised with them.
|REFLEXIVE USE||NON-REFLEXIVE USE|
Move oneself away
Tu afastaste-te de mim, porquê?
You’ve moved away from me. Why?
Move something away
Afasta um pouco o ecrã.
Move the screen away a few inches.
Cling, hold on
Agarra-te bem à corda se não vais cair!
Hold on tight to the rope, otherwise, you will fall down!
Grab, get a hold of
Isto é uma oportunidade única. Agarra-a!
This is a unique opportunity. Grab it!
Ele adaptou-se rápido ao novo trabalho.
He adapted fast to his new job.
Adaptei a guitarra para esquerdinos.
I adapted the guitar for left-handed people.
A Sandra aleijou-se a jogar futebol.
Sandra got injured while playing soccer.
Ele aleijou-me no joelho.
He hurt me on my knee.
To fall in love
Apaixonaste-te outra vez?
Did you fall in love again?
Não deixes que eles se aproveitem de ti.
Don’t allow them to take advantage of you.
Take the opportunity
Aproveita que estás no Porto para ir visitar o Palácio de Cristal.
Since you are in Porto, take the opportunity to visit the Palácio de Cristal.
Move oneself closer
Ela está-se a aproximar novamente dele.
She is getting closer to him again.
Move something closer
Podes aproximar um pouco a luz?
Can you move the light a few inches closer?
Get ready (to go out)
Arranjo-me em menos de 10 minutos.
I get ready in less than 10 minutes.
Conseguiste arranjar a máquina de lavar?
Could you fix the washing machine?
Preciso de arranjar o cabelo antes de sair.
I need to fix my hair before I leave.
Ele vai arrepender-se!
He will regret it.
Fumble, get nervous
O malabarista atrapalhou-se e deixou cair as bolas.
The juggler fumbled and dropped the balls.
Fui-me embora porque não a queria atrapalhar.
I went away because I didn’t want to disturb her.
I am late, sorry!
As tuas exigências estão a atrasar o processo.
Your demands are delaying the process.
Shut up, stop talking
Calei-me quando percebi que não me ouvias.
I stopped talking when I realized that you were not listening.
Os meus argumentos calaram a Carla.
My arguments made Carla silent.
Vou-me casar para o próximo ano.
I am getting married next year.
Foi o padre Manoel que nos casou.
It was Father Manoel who married us.
Acredita em mim, vais-te cansar.
Believe me, you’ll get tired.
Tu falas muito, assim acabas por cansar as pessoas.
You talk too much; that way you end up tiring out people around you.
Call oneself (literally)
My name is Rita.
Ainda não chamaste o médico?
Have you called the doctor yet?
Ela chateou-se com o pai dela.
She got upset with her father.
Porque é que me estás a chatear?
Why are you nagging me?
Não me consigo concentrar com este ruído.
I can’t concentrate with all this noise.
Concentrate, bring together (something)
A indústria está concentrada no norte.
All the industry is concentrated in the north.
A Joana confunde-se facilmente quando está cansada.
Joana gets easily confused when she’s tired.
Eu não quero confundir a Joana.
I don’t want to confuse Joana.
Ele estava mal mas curou-se.
He had been very ill but he healed.
Heal, cure (someone)
O médico curou-o.
The doctor healed him.
Ele demora-se muito tempo para se vestir.
He takes a long time to get dressed.
Quanto tempo demora?
How much time does it take?
Lie down, go to bed
Deita-te no sofá.
Lie down on the sofa.
A que horas te costumas deitar?
What time do you usually go to bed?
Lay / pour
Deita-o aqui nesta cama.
Lay him on this bed.
Deita alguma água aqui.
Pour some water here.
Manage, fend for oneself
Foi difícil no início, mas acabou por se desenrascar.
It was challenging in the beginning, but she managed it eventually.
Help, fix something for others
Consegues desenrascar-me com isto?
Would you be able to help me out with this?
Estamos atrasados, despacha-te!
We are running late. Hurry up!
Esta manhã consegui despachar todas as encomendas.
This morning I managed to dispatch all the orders.
Despedi-me e fui embora.
I said bye and went away.
Ela tem de despedir 15 empregados.
She must fire 15 employees.
Ele dirigiu-se aos correios.
He went to the post office
Sonho em dirigir uma orquestra sinfónica.
I dream about conducting a symphonic orchestra.
Divertiste-te ontem à noite?
Did you have fun last night?
Fiquei em casa a divertir as crianças.
I stayed home entertaining the children.
|Divorciar-se (also Separar-se)|
A Teresa divorciou-se do Miguel.
Teresa divorced Miguel.
Lean oneself against
Encosta-te a mim para não caires.
Lean against me so that you don’t fall.
Lean something against
Encosta a bicicleta à parede.
Lean the bicycle against the wall.
Get something wrong, make a mistake
Enganei-me e virei à esquerda em vez da direita.
I got it wrong and I turned left instead of right.
Para de enganar as pessoas.
Stop cheating around.
Ela esqueceu-se da reunião.
She forgot about the meeting.
Esquece a reunião! Foi cancelada.
Forget about the meeting! It got canceled.
O Simão feriu-se gravemente na guerra.
Simão got badly wounded at war.
Ele feriu a Carla.
He hurt Carla.
|Habituar-se (also Acostumar-se)|
Get oneself used to
Ela já se habituou à nova casa.
She got used to the new house quickly.
|Habituar (also Acostumar)|
Get something/someone used to
Tenho de habituar o cão a dormir fora.
I must get the dog used to sleeping outside.
|Lembrar-se (also Recordar-se)|
Lembro-me de quando tinha cinco anos.
I remember when I was five.
|Lembra (also Recordar)|
Lembra a Rita para tomar o comprimido.
Remind Rita to take the pill.
A que horas costumas levantar-te?
What time do you usually get up?
Lift / pick up
Podes levantar a cadeira?
Can you lift the chair?
You screwed me over!
Precisas de lixar a mesa antes de a pintar.
You’ve got to sand the table before you paint it.
Não te metas!
Don’t get involved!
Put, throw in
Mesteste o meu lanche na mochila?
Did you put my snacks in the backpack?
Tive de me mexer, senão estava lixado,
I had to do something, otherwise, I was screwed.
Arranja-me uma colher para mexer o arroz.
Give me a spoon to stir the rice.
Não mexas nisso!
Don’t touch that!
Move (change place permanently)
Quando é que te mudas para a Suécia?
When are you moving to Sweden?
You just never change!
Comb (do one’s hair)
Ele penteia-se três vezes ao dia.
He styles his hair three times a day.
Comb (do someone else’s hair)
Penteio a Gabriela todos os dias antes de ela sair para a escola.
I do Gabriela’s hair every day before she leaves for school.
O Mário perdeu-se nas montanhas.
Mário got lost in the mountains.
Perdi as minhas chaves.
I’ve lost my keys.
|Portar-se (also Comportar-se)|
Não te sabes portar bem!
You don’t know how to behave!
Preocupas-te em vão!
You worry in vain!
Get someone worried
Não faças isso, vais preocupar os teus pais.
Don’t do that; you will get your parents worried.
Estás sempre a queixar-te!
You are always complaining!
Make up one’s mind
Resolvi-me! Fico cá.
I’ve made up my mind! I’ll stay around.
Resolvi ficar cá.
I decided to stay around.
Consegui resolver o problema.
I managed to solve the problem.
Take a seat, sit
Sente-se, por favor!
Take a seat, please!
Place (sitting someone somewhere)
Onde vais sentar o teu pai?
Where are you placing your father?
Are you (feeling) well?
I feel tired.
Feel, have a feeling
Adoro sentir o calor do verão.
I love to feel summer’s heat.
Sinto que há não me amas.
I have a feeling that you don’t love me anymore.
Ele tornou-se num monstro.
He became a monster.
Do again, come back
Tornaste a fazer isso?
Did you do that again?
Nunca mais tornes aqui!
Don’t ever come back!
Ele transformou-se num monstro.
He became a monster.
Consegues transformar chumbo em ouro?
Can you turn lead into gold?
I will get dressed.
Put on (clothes)
Veste este casaco.
Put on this jacket.
|Voltar-se (also Virar-se)|
Podes voltar-te para mim?
Can you turn around to face me?
Tens de voltar a Lisboa!
You must come back to Lisbon!
|. . .|
Other uses of the reflexive pronoun “se”
We use the reflexive pronoun se (third-person singular) to speak about things in an impersonal way, just like we say you, one, they, or people in English:
|Fala-se muito de política nesta casa.|
People talk a lot about politics in this house.
Come-se bem naquele restaurante.
You eat well in that restaurant.
We also use the reflexive pronoun se (often reinforced by the expression um ao outro) to express reciprocity, just like we say each other or one another in English. A few examples:
They hug each other.
Nós ajudamo-nos um ao outro.
We help one another
They kill each other.
Eles agarram-se um ao outro.
They hold onto each other.
Other Portuguese verbs that often express this “one another” reciprocity are beijar (kiss), amar (love), magoar (hurt), odear (hate), casar (marry), and encontrar (meet) among others.
Portuguese Language Retreats
Lift your Portuguese to a new level in a peaceful, language-immersive environment.
Intensive Courses in Portugal
Get right on track towards fluency
Stay tuned for upcoming online courses and other learning materials.