Spanish verbs that use reflexive pronouns are called pronominal verbs. Sometimes these verbs are used to intensify the meaning of the verb. When we use a pronominal verb in the gerund, infinitive or affirmative command form along with a direct object pronoun, there is a specific order to these pronouns. Here are some examples:
With an infinitive
Tengo un libro nuevo y quiero leérmelo pronto.I have a new book and I want to read it soon.
Tu pelo está larguísimo. Deberías cortártelo.Your hair is very long. You should have it cut. [lit: should cut it]
The reflexive pronouns are "me" and "te" and the direct object pronoun referring to "book" and "hair" is "lo".
With a gerund
Hay tres copas de vino en la mesa y ella está bebiéndoselas todas.There are three glasses of wine on the table and she is drinking them all.
Deja algunas patatas para mí. Estás comiéndotelas todas.Leave some potatoes for me. You are eating them all. [you=tú]
The reflexive pronouns are "se" and "te" and the direct object pronoun is "las" in both, referring to "glasses of wine" and "crisps".
As you can see, with both the infinitive and the gerund, we've attached the pronouns to the end of the infinitive and gerund form. When doing so, you will notice that the verbs with the pronouns attached now have an accent, because they have become longer words and are still stressed on the same syllable as before without the pronouns attached; therefore they need a written accent as per rules for accentuation.
However we can also place them right in front of the whole verbal structure, separated from the verb. Have a look:
With an infinitive
Tengo un libro nuevo y me lo quiero leer pronto.I have a new book and I want to read it soon.
Tu pelo está larguísimo. Te lo deberías cortar.Your hair is very long. You should have it cut.
With a gerund
Hay tres copas de vino en la mesa y ella se las está bebiendo todas.There are three glasses of wine on the table and she is drinking them all.
Deja algunas patatas para mí. Te las estás comiendo todas.Leave some potatoes for me. You are eating them all. [you=tú]
Notice how the pronouns are placed in front of the "whole" structure. You cannot break the verbal structure placing any pronoun in between. This would be incorrect:
"Estás te las comiendo todas."
"Está se las bebiendo todas."
"Quiero me lo leer pronto."
Also notice that in all the examples above we always place the reflexive pronoun first and then the direct object pronoun. This is the order to follow, regardless of whether you place them at the end attached to the gerund or in front of the structure.
With an affirmative command
Carlitos, hace calor y tienes la chaqueta puesta. ¡Quítatela!Carlitos, it is hot and you have your jacket on. Take it off! [you=tú]
Miriam, tienes las uñas muy largas. ¡Córtatelas!Miriam, you have very long nails. Cut them!
Aquí están las instrucciones. Léanselas rápido.Here are the instructions. Read them quickly. [referring to ustedes]
¿El escritorio? Póngannoslo aquí en esta habitación, por favor.The desk? Please put it here in this room [for us].
With affirmative commands, the only place for the pronouns is attached to the end. They cannot be detached from the verb. As with the gerund and infinitive, the order is still the same: first the reflexive pronoun and then the direct object pronoun.
Bear in mind that in English reflexive pronouns are not used like this, to reinforce the meaning of the verb. Therefore reflexive pronouns will be missing from the English translations.
There is an idiomatic expression that is very commonly used in Spanish to say having a good time. This expression "pasárselo bien" is using a pronominal verb and a direct object pronoun "lo". Here are some examples of this expression using the infinitive, the gerund and the affirmative command:
Estoy pasándomelo bien.I am having a good time.
Me lo estoy pasando bien.I am having a good time.
Quiero pasármelo bien.I want to have a good time.
Me lo quiero pasar bien.I want to have a good time.
¡Pásatelo bien.!Have a good time!
You can place pronouns either in front of a whole verbal structure with an infinitive or a gerund (detached) or at the end after the infinitive or gerund (attached).
You can only place pronouns at the end of an affirmative command (attached).
In any case: the reflexive pronoun is always first, followed by the direct object pronoun.
See also Position of direct and indirect object pronouns with infinitive/gerund and affirmative commands
Want to make sure your Spanish sounds confident?
We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your
gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »