In the context of Spanish linguistics, is there a difference in how the terms reflexivos and pronominales are used to describe verbs/pronouns?

Note 1: question suggested in this Meta thread: Is there a difference really between [tag:reflexivos] and [tag:pronominales]

Note 2: In English-written study of the Romance languages, pronominal/pronomial is generally used to describe a parent category of verbs of which reflexive is one subtype:

pronomial = { [properly] reflexive, reciprocal, autocausative, anticausative, intransitive, inherent, ... }

As you can see, to avoid ambiguity, the prefix 'properly' is sometimes added to 'reflexive' to make explicit that it is different from 'pronomial'.

  • Maybe this is tangential to the question, but are pronomial and pronominal equivalent? I thought it was a typo but then I found out pronomial indeed exists.
    – fedorqui
    Sep 12, 2018 at 21:25
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    @fedorqui Here are a few examples of English works studying romance languages (French and Spanish respectively) where the authors use the term pronomial verb synonymously with pronominal verb: The Pronomial Verb Structure in French, Jack Burston | Towards a theory of pronomial verb construction in Spanish, Grant Armstrong. If not widely used, when it is used, it appears to be used with the same meaning.
    – jacobo
    Sep 12, 2018 at 21:45
  • Thanks a lot for the insight, I am happy I did not correct it by mistake.
    – fedorqui
    Sep 12, 2018 at 21:59
  • 1
    Regarding the question itself, I've found a very detailed document about it: Construcciones reflexivas, recíprocas y medias. Checking also RAE's Términos lingüísticos makes me think reflexivo is considered a subset of pronominal. I need to sleep now, though :-D
    – fedorqui
    Sep 12, 2018 at 22:13
  • A lo mejor no es así: siempre había pensado que reflexivo es una forma verbal que necesita los pronombres reflexivos (me, te, se, nos, os, se) como peinarse. Los verbos pronominales pueden tener una forma reflexiva i otra no reflexiva como colocar y colocarse
    – enxaneta
    Dec 2, 2018 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


Yes and you might be missing the "reciproco" verbs, which fall into the same categories.

Pronominal: when the verb is joined to the subject.

examples: comprome, rompeme, hazme, comprarse.

under this category you will find the three types : "reciproco", "Reflexivo" and "exclusivamente pronominal"

  • Reciprocos - an action performed by more than one subject on themselves:

example of Recíproco simple:

Jose y Carlos se abrazaron

examples of pronominal Reciproco:

Jose y carlos "abrazáronse"

  • Reflexivos, the action is performed by the subject on him/herself

Example of Reflexivo Simple:

"me lavo las manos"

example of Pronominal Reflexivo :

"yo lávome las manos"

  • Exclusivo prenominal - the subject is tied to the noun

example of Exclusivamente pronominal:

"el cajon va a romperse"

  • Yes, in Spanish pronominal, but not in English. All your examples are correct, of course and the categories in English about Spanish verbs is: reflexive verbs, exclusively reflexive verbs and reciprocally reflexive verbs. And not all are translated into English reflexively. We would not say "pronominal" verbs. We say pronominal forms, sure.
    – Lambie
    Sep 12, 2018 at 19:53
  • verbo pronominal: the pronoun is joined to the bare infinitive: levantarse: Me levanto a las cinco. comprome [comprar] and rompeme [romper] are not good examples since they can be used two ways. Levantarse meaning to "get up from bed or sleeping " does not.
    – Lambie
    Sep 12, 2018 at 20:07
  • rigth, in english the reflexive sometimes is not needed or you have to explicit add "himself,themselves,myself", also i think there's no "pronominal" form in english
    – Mike
    Sep 12, 2018 at 20:44
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    That's debatable. There are some. to hurt oneself But that's exactly why I don't like using that term in English and prefer reflexive. But in Spanish,there are verbs that must take them,others that can take them, and still others whose meanings change when they used reflexively. Also,some Spanish ones translate to each other: se abrazarón; They hugged each other.
    – Lambie
    Sep 12, 2018 at 21:59
  • comprome, rómpeme, etc are enclitic, but no pronominal. Dec 2, 2018 at 14:41

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