Can some Spanish verbs be turned into reflexive verbs even if they have no 'official' form? For instance, I have seen the following sentences:

Se decía a sí misma que tenía que hacerlo. (She told herself she had to do it.)

Me odio a mí mismo/misma. (I hate myself.)

Nos mentimos a nosotros mismos con frecuencia. (We lie to ourselves frequently.)

When I looked up decirse, odiarse and mentirse in a Spanish-English dictionary (I used SpanishDict and Collins) nothing came up except decir, odiar and mentir. Thus, my question is, can a normal Spanish verb (i.e. one with no se on the end) be turned into a reflexive despite the fact that it has no 'official' reflexive form, such as duchar/ducharse, desarmar/desarmarse (the non-reflexive and reflexive forms of which are in the dictionary)?

  • 1
    You need to use: rae.es the Diccionario de la lengua espanhola from the Real Academia Española. When you look up the words, they will tell you, but you need to familiarize yourself with their abbreviations. Here is the page that explains the abbreviations: [hard to find] rae.es/sites/default/files/Abreviaturas_y_signos_empleados.pdf So, for example, verbo impersonal is prnl. You have to work on understanding it. There are other abbreviations as well.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 1:30
  • If you hover your mouse over the abbreviation eventually it gives you an expansion. I have forgotten who on this site told me that so am unable to give credit where it is due.
    – mdewey
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 10:57
  • I think it is best to focus also on the pronoun as well as the verb form. This Q&A has an explanation of the main uses of se spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/22563/…
    – mdewey
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


In the "official" Diccionario de la Lengua Española (DLE), pronominal versions of verbs (i.e., meanings of the verb that require the use of me, te, se, etc.), are marked with the abbreviation prnl. For example, in the entry for decir:

  1. prnl. Expresar un pensamiento mentalmente, o sin dirigir a otro la palabra. Me dije: esta es la mía.

However, these entries are only included if the meaning is different than that of the non-pronominal version. A transitive verb has a direct object. If the subject is the same as the direct object (i.e., if the subject applies the action to itself), then this can always be expressed by using the verb in the pronominal form, and it is called a reflexive pronoun. So even if odiar has no entry for its pronominal (prnl.) use, if you want to say that someone hates themselves, then you use odiarse, as in your example

Me odio a mí mismo

Furthermore, if the members of a plural subject apply the action to each other, this is called a reciprocal action, and it also uses the pronominal form with se & co.

Sus hijos se odian (entre ellos).

The reflexive and reciprocal uses of the pronouns me, te, se, etc. are usually not listed in dictionaries if they do not change the meaning of the verb. However, any verb that admits a direct or indirect object can be used in the reflexive or reciprocal form if the meaning of the resulting sentence makes sense.

  • We say reflexive verb in English. I keep reading pronominal on posts in this forum and we simply do not say that in English.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 1:36
  • Let's not forget that many transitive verbs have mediopassive meanings when used reflexively ("no TE muevas", "ya ME cansé"), as well as impersonal verbs ("en estas fechas SE festeja mucho").
    – nopaltepec
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 12:54

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