Wikipedia defines reflexive verbs like this:
In more understandable terms (!):
Whenever the subject is receiving and doing the action at the same time, it's a reflexive verb.
But that's still a linguist's perspective and not really helpful to most of us that want to start using these right now. I've tried to come up with simple things that trigger the reflexive, but I now think it's actually better to just memorize some of the most popular ones and develop a feel for it. It's not all that complicated! It really is just a matter of recognizing that you need to include a myself or a yourself, ourselves, themselves etc. when you say for example, "I injured myself". It would be pretty silly to say, "I injured." Other examples are not as crystal clear:
*though we really don't say it like that in english!
This one, you don't need to know, though it can be fun to use:
ferrar-se. > offensive > see link.
When you can sense that the sentence needs a myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, themselves etc. But I think it's better to simply memorize (flashcards!) the ones in this post and start using them You will naturally develop a feel for when to use the reflexive. This will happen naturally, without having to stop and think about it.
The ones above are almost always used reflexively -- so, please learn them first. But know that pretty much any verb can be used reflexively. Let's do it:
falar > Eu me falei > I told my self.
ensinar > Você se ensinou? > Did you teach yourself?
tocar > Para de se tocar! > Stop touching yourself!
But I can't think of any way to use for example chover, morar, dançar (dancing with myself?), chegar, ir, trabalhar...
Want to see all the possibilities? Let's do one verb.
Reflexive Pronouns: levantar-se
|Personal Pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun||Example|
|Eu||me||Eu me levantei. (I got myself up)|
|Tu||te||Tu te levantaste. (You got yourself up)|
|Você||se||Você se levantou. (You got yourself up)|
|Ele||se||Ele se levantou. (He got himself up)|
|Ela||se||Ela se levantou. (She got herself up)|
|A gente||se||A gente se levantou. (We got ourselves up)|
|Nós||nos||Nós nos levantamos. (We got ourselves up)|
|Vocês||se||Vocês se levantaram. (You got yourselves up)|
|Eles||se||Eles se levantaram. (They got themselves up)|
|Elas||se||Elas se levantaram. (They got themselves up)|