Reflexive pronouns (pronomes reflexos) are a specific group of object pronouns used when the action of a verb is applied to the subject of the sentence. In other words, we use them with verbs whose action is something one does to oneself. In English, this would be words like myself, yourself, himself, 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. The following table contains all of the reflexive pronouns in Portuguese.
|Subject pronoun||Reflexive pronouns|
|Ele / Ela / Você||se|
|Eles / Elas / Vocês||se|
All reflexive pronouns are enclitics – they immediately follow the verb, using a hyphen. Notice that you do not see vos in this chart. Unlike the clitics me, te, or nos, which can function as both reflexive pronouns and as direct/indirect object pronouns, vos is used only as a direct/indirect object pronoun. For reflexive pronouns, it is replaced by -se.
Let’s have a look at each one individually, using one of the most simple Portuguese reflexive verbs, vestir (to dress).
Nos is the equivalent of “ourselves”. Example:
Vestimo-nos com os nossos disfarces de Carnaval. We dressed ourselves with our Carnival costumes.
Notice when using -nos that the -s at the end of 1st-person plural verb forms is always dropped.
Se is used for all of the other reflexive pronouns: 3rd person singular, 3rd person plural, the formal form of “you” (você), and the plural form of you (vocês). Here, se stands in for “himself”, “herself”, “itself”, “theirselves”, “yourself”(formal), and “yourselves”(talking to a group).
Ele veste-se muito bem. He dresses 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.