Reflexive pronouns (pronomes reflexos) are a specific group of object pronouns that we use when the action of a verb is applied to the subject of the sentence. To put it another way, verbs where the subject of the sentence is also the object of the verb’s action. Or in an even simpler way: verbs whose action are things one does to oneself. The following table contains all reflexive pronouns in Portuguese.
|Subject pronoun||Reflexive pronouns|
|Ele / Ela / Você||se|
|Eles / Elas / Vocês||se|
Being reflexive, all of these pronouns are enclitics – they immediately follow the verb, using a hyphen.
The equivalents to these pronouns in English are myself, yourself, himself, herself, and so on. Let’s have a look at them individually, using one of the most simple reflexive verbs in Portuguese, the verb vestir (to dress).
Se (third person singular)
Nos is the equivalent to “ourselves”. Example:
Vestimo-nos com os nossos disfarces de Carnaval. We dressed ourselves with our Carnival costumes.
Notice that with -nos the S at the end of first plural verb forms is always dropped.
Se (third person plural)
Yes, it’s Se again. Se is not only used for all the third person singular forms, as we’ve stated before, but it is also used for você (and thus the equivalent to our polite “yourself”) and all the third person plural forms (and so equivalent to “themselves” in English). Examples:
Você vestiu-se de Pai Natal. You got yourself dressed as Father Christmas.
As crianças vestiram-se de gnomos. The children got themselves dressed as elves.
Os pais vestiram-se de renas. The parents got themselves dressed as reindeer.
Notice that unlike the clitics me, te, or nos, which are also reflexive pronouns, vos is used only as a direct and indirect object pronoun. For reflexive pronouns, it is replaced by -se.