Reflexive Pronouns

When the direct object or indirect object represents the same person or thing as the subject of the verb, it’s expressed by a reflexive pronoun.
In other words, we use reflexive pronouns when the action is something one does to oneself. In English, this would be words like myself, yourself, himself, ourselves, themselves, etc. For example, in the sentence “She convinced herself”, she is both the subject and the object, so we use herself as the reflexive pronoun.
We’re including reflexive pronouns in this unit because, despite technically belonging to a different category, they share most of the same pronouns. The only difference is in the 3rd person, both singular and plural, which uses se, si, and consigo.
Since we’re learning about clitic pronouns, which are unstressed pronouns, for now we’re going to disregard si and consigo, which are stressed pronouns, and talk about those in another unit.

Reflexive Pronouns in Portuguese

Subject pronouns Reflexive pronouns
Eu me
Tu te
Ele / Ela / Você se
Nós nos
Eles / Elas / Vocês se

When it comes to placing these pronouns within a sentence, you can follow the same rules as the rest of the clitics.
Let’s have a look at each pronoun individually, using one of the simplest Portuguese reflexive verbs, vestir-se to dress oneself

Me

Me is the equivalent of myself. Example:
Eu vesti-me à pressa para não chegar atrasado. I dressed myself in a hurry, so I wouldn’t be late.

Te

Te is used in informal contexts and corresponds to yourself. Example:
Vestes-te tão lentamente! You dress yourself so slowly!

Nos

Nos is the equivalent of ourselves. Example:
Vestimo-nos com os nossos disfarces de Carnaval. We dressed ourselves with our Carnival costumes.
Notice when adding -nos that the -s at the end of 1st-person plural verb forms is always dropped: vestimos + nos = vestimo-nos).

Se

Se is used for all the other pronouns: ele, ela, eles, elas, você, and vocês. Here, se stands in for himself, herself, itself, themselves, yourself(formal), and yourselves (talking to a group).
Examples:
Ele veste-se muito bem. He dresses himself well.
Ele não se veste nada bem. He really doesn't dress himself well.
Você vestiu-se de Pai Natal. You dressed yourself as Father Christmas.
As crianças vestiram-se de gnomos. The children dressed themselves as elves.
Os pais vestiram-se de renas. The parents dressed themselves as reindeer.

Reciprocal Pronouns

The plural forms of the reflexive, nos and se, are also used to express a mutual action between two or more people. In English, the equivalent is each other. You can call these pronomes recíprocos reciprocal pronouns. For example:
Nós abraçamo-nos. We hugged each other.
Eles não se cumprimentam. They don't greet each other.
 
 
 

Comments:

  • Is this correct in the lesson “Vocês vestiu-se de Pai Natal.” ? It seems to me that “vestiu-se” is singular, i.e the subject should be Você not Vocês? Or, am I somehow mixed up.

  • Olá Joseph,
    o usa do palavra “se” está um pouco dificil, porque pode usa-lo em vários situações, não é? “Se ele veste-se bem se pode dizer que ele vai á festa.” Na língua alemã temos palavras diferentes cada vez.

    • Olá, Manfred. Sim, a palavra ‘se’ é muito flexível na sua utilização. Vou pegar no teu exemplo (com pequenas correções para ficar mais idiomático): “Se ele se veste bem, pode-se dizer que ele vai à festa”. O primeiro ‘se’ é uma conjunção (significa “if”); o segundo ‘se’, ele se veste, é um pronome reflexivo que se refere a ele (he dresses himself); o terceiro ‘se’, pode-se, é uma palavra apassivante, ou seja, aproxima o verbo da voz passiva (pode-se dizer = pode ser dito = it can be said).

      Estes aspectos gramáticos podem ser muito complexos e não vale a pena estudá-los muito profundamente, na minha opinião (a menos que tenham curiosidade!) – a teoria ajuda, mas um novo idioma só se domina com a prática 🙂

  • Wouldn’t ”Vestes-te tão lentamente!” translate to “You DRESS yourself so slowly”, rather than “you DRESSED”? That would be “Tu vestiste-te tão lentamente”, no? Thanks!

    • We do use -vos, but not reflexively. We can use it in sentences such as:
      Eles olham-vos com medo. (They look at you with fear)
      Eu quero-vos aqui comigo! (I want you here with me!)

      As you see, the subject and object of each sentence are always different. More on that here: Clitic Pronouns: Nos & Vos

  • Ok I get the picture now.
    If I were to draw a pronoun chat I’d go:
    Subject: vocês
    Indirect object: vos
    Direct object: vos
    Refkexive: se
    Reciprocal: consigo
    With con: com vocês? Or is it convosco?
    Is it possible to tell us where in Portugal do people use “vós fazeis” and when they do, do they consider vocês formal? And when those people use vocês do they use it with lhes, seu etc?

    • “Com vocês” and “convosco” can both be used. However, the same can’t be said for “connosco” and “com nós” – only “connosco” is correct 🙂 The use of “vós” nowadays is mostly limited to northern Portugal, especially in more rural areas. Even there, you may hear “vocês”, which is always used in the same way, following the same rules. I’d say that no matter where you are, “vocês” is quite neutral in terms of formality and “vós” is more formal.*

      Your pronoun table seems mostly fine, except for the “reciprocal” line. However, to avoid drifting too off topic and also overwhelming the comment section here, I’d suggest you send additional questions to our support channel or our forum, which is a better medium for this and still allows other people to also learn with you!

      *Note: Actually, the locals will tell you that “vocês”/”vós” are equally neutral over there, so don’t mind me 😀

  • Olá Joseph! Eu sou portuguesa e natural de uma região onde se utiliza o “vós”. Queria só fazer uma pequena correção: o “vós” não é, de maneira nenhuma, mais formal do que o “vocês”. Utiliza-se exatamente no mesmo registo. Por exemplo, se eu e a minha irmã estivermos a sair de casa da minha avó, ela vai perguntar-nos “Onde ides?”; e, no entanto, trata-nos por “tu”. Ela simplesmente não usa o termo “vocês”.

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