In this lesson, we explore verbs with the body and learn when to use the pronominal (reflexive) vs the non-pronominal form of the verb. 

While working on our latest series covering common orthopedic injuries in Spanish, I noticed how the verb to say, "I injured my knee," is pronominal: "Me lesioné la rodilla." Whereas the verb to say, "I bent my knee," is not: "Doblé la rodilla." So why is that? We learn this and more in this audio lesson. It’s a tricky subject, so I will try to make it clear through lots of examples.

Le doy las gracias a Gloria Becerril por ayudarme con el español de esta lección. Click here to take classes with Gloria!

Unintentional Actions 

First, let's use the PRONOMINAL form of the verb to express that an action involving our body was UNINTENTIONAL.

Me golpeé la cabeza.
Golpeé la cabeza
I hit my head.

Me rompí el bazo.
Me quebré el brazo.
Me fracturé el brazo.
I broke my arm.

Me torcí el tobillo.
I twisted my ankle.

Me estiré un músculo en la espalda.
I pulled a muscle in my back.

Using the the PRONOMINAL form of the verb clarifies that these were ACCIDENTAL events.

Reflexive Actions with a Part of the Body

We also use the PRONOMINAL form of the verb to express REFLEXIVE actions, or intentional actions we perform ON our bodies.

Me lavo las manos.
I wash my hands.

Me toco la nariz.
I touch my nose.

Me cepillo los dientes.
I brush my teeth.

Me corto el pelo.
I cut my hair. / I get my hair cut.

As opposed to the prior examples, these are DELIBERATE actions performed ON one's body. Therefore, they are classic examples of reflexive verbs.

Reflexive vs Unintentional

Me estiré un músculo en la espalda.
I pulled a muscle in my back.

Compare this with the previous examples of reflexive actions. In the above example, I am not performing a deliberate action on my body.  Instead, I am using the PRONOMINAL form of the verb to convey that it was an UNINTENTIONAL action that occurred within my body.

Deliberate Actions with Part of the Body

Now, let's use the NON-PRONOMINAL form of the verb to express DELIBERATE, NON-REFLEXIVE actions with a PART of the body.

Estire los brazos.
Stretch your arms. 

This action is not reflexive. We are NOT performing an action ON our body. We are performing an action WITH a part of our body.

Exam Commands

(from the latest member lesson)

Levante la pierna con la rodilla extendida.
Suba la pierna con la rodilla extendida.
Raise the leg with the knee extended.

extendido / extendida

Ahora doble la rodilla.
Now bend your knee.

Intente relajar los músculos.
Trate de relajar los músculos. 
Try to relax your muscles.

Deliberate Actions with the Whole Body



Here, we use the PRONOMINAL form of the verb for an intentional action involving one’s WHOLE BODY. Thus, the action becomes reflexive. It is like saying, "Relax yourself."


Speaking to a friend...

Mueve las caderas.
Mueve la cadera. 
Move your hips.

Move over. 

Speaking to a patient...

Muévase hacia adelante.
Move forward. 

Hacerse y Ponerse

We can use the pronominal verbs, HACERSE y PONERSE, to express MOVING THE WHOLE BODY.


Speaking to a friend...

Hazte para acá.
Come here. / Get over here.

Speaking to a patient...

Hágase para acá.
Come over here.

Hágase para allá. 
Go over there. 

We use ACÁ (not aquí) and ALLÁ (not allí) to express MOVEMENT.

Speaking to a good friend....

Get out of the way.

(OJO: Do NOT use, "Hazte," with a patient.) 


PONERSE is a useful verb for instructing movement when a patient is lying down. 

Póngase de lado.
Roll onto your side.

Póngase boca arriba.
Lie on your back.

Póngase boca abajo.
Lie on our stomach.

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