I'm confused about this sentence:

Me muero por mirarte.
(I'm dying to see you.)

IMHO, I would write "muero por mirarte" because "muero" already has the meaning of "I'm dying" and is an intransitive verb, so it makes no sense to me to prepend a "me". What exactly is this grammar?

More examples:

Me iba corriendo a la escuela cuando apareció mi papá.
(I was rushing to school when my dad showed up.)

(Same as above. I won't add "Me" if I'm writing the sentence.)

  • 6
    Sincerely, I wouldn't add "me" in the second sentence at all. "Correrse" mainly means "to ejaculate" in Spain (although depending on the context it may mean something else). I would change that second example for "me iba corriendo a la escuela".
    – Charlie
    Oct 9 '17 at 8:13

The pronominal verbs has been discussed here on many occasions, see Reflexives and use of "se" in "terminarse" or Use of "me" in the phrase "me llevo este" for examples. Nonetheless, I would like to mention that the DLE contains the following entry for morirse:

  1. intr. coloq. Sentir un impulso muy poderoso hacia el logro de una cosa o hacia una persona. U. t. c. prnl. expr. Se muere POR ese cuadro. Se muere POR ella.

There are a lot of verbs marked in the DLE as "U.t.c.prnl." ("used also as a pronominal verb") to indicate that you can use morir or morirse, but in this case it also add "expr.", to indicate that the pronominal use is just to emphasize that particular meaning of the verb itself, but does not add another meaning (as in llevar/llevarse).

About your second example, you can check the answers to What's the difference between "Va a un bar" and "Se va a un bar"?


The verb morir is optionally pronominal, i. e. it can take the reflexive clitic pronoun even though it's not semantically reflexive. This pseudo-reflexive form has several uses, as explained elsewhere. With optional pronominal verbs sometimes the difference is subtle.

In the case of morir, the plain form is, well, plain: Murió just means "s/he died". The pronominal form usually carries a mediopassive meaning (the dying was an event that causally concerned just the person who died). The plain form is generally more formal and distanced, as employed e. g. when narrating a historical incident.

Thus you would say:

  • Fue herido y murió en el campo de batalla. = "He was wounded and died in the battlefield."
  • Murió en un accidente automovilístico. = "He died in an automobile crash."
  • Murió tranquilamente mientras dormía. = "He died peacefully in his sleep."
  • Mi abuelo murió hace diez años. = "My grandfather died ten years ago."

The pronominal form tends to be more expressive and it almost always shows emotional closeness. It's often accompanied by this mediopassive nuance, the idea that the dying person is dying by her/himself, or that death in itself is the process, not the end result. You don't often use the pronominal form to give explanations of fact about the person's death.

The metaphorical meaning of morir(se) por (alguien/algo) is of course always expressive, but you can use either the plain form or the pronominal one, since the above are not hard-and-fast rules. These are all valid:

  • Muero por tomarme una cerveza fría.
  • Me muero por un helado.
  • Muero por hablarte.
  • Me muero por volver a verla.

Each optional-pronominal verb has its own shades of meaning. Your second example seems to have a completive meaning, like the much more usual verbs irse, marcharse, escaparse. I've never found pronominal correrse with this meaning myself, though. My native-speaker instinct suggests that Me corría a la escuela would be rendered in English as something like "I was taking/getting myself to school", while the non-pronominal would just mean "I was running/rushing to school". There's a sense of personal finality there. Another example would be:

  • Dormí mal anoche. = "I slept badly last night."
  • No pude dormir. = "I couldn't sleep."
  • Me dormí bastante tarde. = "I got (myself) to sleep rather late."
  • No me pude dormir. = "I couldn't get myself to fall asleep."

This could go on and on; you'll get the idea, in every case, by actually employing the different verbs and paying attention to how other people employ them.


John McWhorter PhD Linguistics (Stanford) expounds this, in The Power of Babel (2003), p. 183.

Linguistic Narcissism: Inherent Reflexivity Marking

Another area where a language can take a ball and run with it is reflexivity. All languages have a way of expressing that an action is done to oneself, such as English’s I bathe myself. Yet in English, we are only required to mark this for purposes of explicitness and can quite often leave reflexivity unmarked with no resultant ambiguity-we can say I bathe without fearing that someone will wonder, “ Well, actually, whom do you bathe?” But in many other languages, one must mark the reflexivity overtly in all relevant cases: in French, one must say Je me lave—Je lave implies that you bathe someone other than yourself; in German, you say Ich wasche mich, not just Ich wasche.

p. 184

  Furthermore, in most such languages, the habit has extended to all actions entailing exertion on oneself, most of which an English speaker does not even conceive of as reflexive: in French, one does not just slip, but slips oneself—je me glisse; in Spanish, one does not just sit down, but sits oneself down—yo me siento; in Russian, one did not tire, but tired oneself—ja utomilsja. This is where the “ changes itself ” aspect of such languages comes in. In French, one changes oneself into a swan rather than just changing into it: Je me transforme en cygne.
  Yet getting a “feel” for such a language entails wrapping one’s head around the fact that this fixation on marking any hint of exertion on oneself has spread even into actions exerted within, rather than on, oneself. In French, then, one does not just faint, but “faints oneself” (Je m’ évanouis); in Spanish, one does not just feel happy, but “feels oneself happy” (Yo me siento feliz)', in German, one does not just remember, but “ remembers oneself” (Ich erinnere mich)— similarly. This can even apply to nonsentient objects: in Spanish, if a window broke, it “broke itself”—after all, it didn’t break something else, and thus Se quebró la ventana “The window broke.”

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