Banarse Reflexive Conjugation: Preterite & Imperfect

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Bathing is a daily need for most people, so you may need to use the Spanish verb for it either in the preterite or imperfect tense. This lesson covers both tenses so you know how to use each.

Bath or Shower?

The verb bañarse (bah-NYAHR-seh) strictly means 'to bathe'. Although there is a way to say 'to shower' in Spanish, it is important to note first that Spanish speakers use bañarse to refer both taking a bath or a shower. In short, the distinction is not strict. Also, Spanish speakers sometimes use bañarse to mean 'swimming' in the ocean, a pool, a lake, etc.

To learn how to use this verb in a practical manner, today we learn the preterite and the imperfect tenses through separate tables. Each tense includes a formula to remember and a pronunciation guide with the most stressed syllable in capitals. Let's go for this refreshing bath!...I mean, lesson!

The Preterite of Bañarse

You use the preterite of this verb to say when you bathed last or how you bathed. For example, you would say things like 'I bathed last night' or 'I bathed in cold water'. Before we learn the conjugation in the preterite, we can learn a formula to never get it wrong. The formula includes a 'reflexive pronoun' because bañarse is a reflexive verb, which means the action ('to bathe' in this case) remains with the subject who does it.

Formula for the Preterite:

subject pronoun + reflexive pronoun + bañarse in preterite tense

Now, let's apply this formula:

Subject Pronoun Reflexive Pronoun Bañarse in Preterite Tense Pronunciation Translation
yo me bañé meh bah-NYEH I bathed
te bañaste teh bah-NYAHS-teh You (informal, singular) bathed
se bañó seh bah-NYOH He/She bathed, you (formal, singular) bathed
nos bañamos nohs bah-NYAH-mohs We bathed
os bañasteis ohs bah-NYAHS-teh-ees You (informal, plural) bathed
se bañaron seh bah-NYAH-rohn They/You (formal, plural) bathed

Some vocabulary you would typically use with the preterite tense includes but is not limited to:

  • anoche (ah-NOH-cheh) means 'last night'
  • ayer (ah-YEHR) means 'yesterday'
  • esta mañana (EHS-tah mah-NYAH-nah) means 'this morning'
  • hace un mes (AH-seh oon MEHS) means 'a month ago'

Now, we have some examples below. We ask Spanish speakers when they bathed last:

Mariela replies:

  • Me bañé esta mañana muy temprano. (I bathed this morning very early).

As you can see, Mariela dropped the yo. You can do this because the reflexive pronoun me already indicates that the subject is yo. However, no matter what, never drop the reflexive pronoun!

About her family, Mariela says:

  • Mi esposo se bañó anoche. (My husband bathed last night)
  • Mis hijos se bañaron en agua fría ayer porque hacía mucho calor. (My sons bathed in cold water yesterday because it was very hot)

Now we ask when they bathed in the ocean the last time. Mariela says:

  • Nos bañamos en el mar hace dos meses. (We bathed in the sea two months ago).

As you can see, the components of the formula for the preterite are in every single sentence Mariela says. Great! Can you say in Spanish when you bathed last? Say it aloud and write it down for practice.

If you want to form a negative sentence, just add no in front of the reflexive pronoun. For example:

  • Vosotros no os bañasteis hoy. (You -plural, informal- did not bath today).

Translation = Carlos bathed this morning.

The Imperfect of Bañarse

Use the imperfect of this verb to express past habits, which is how or when you 'used to bathe '. Those times don't come back, such as childhood, teenage years, etc.

To form the imperfect tense of bañarse, we also can learn a formula:

Formula for the Preterite:

subject pronoun + reflexive pronoun + verb bañarse in imperfect tense

Let's apply this formula to the table:

Subject Pronoun Reflexive Pronoun Bañarse in Imperfect Tense Pronunciation Translation
yo me bañaba meh bah-NYEH I used to bathe
te bañabas teh bah-NYAHS-teh You (informal, singular) used to bathe
se bañaba seh bah-NYOH He/She used to bathe, you (formal, singular) used to bathe
nos bañábamos nohs bah-NYAH-mohs We used to bathe
os bañabais ohs bah-NYAHS-teh-ees You (informal, plural) used to bathe
se bañaban seh bah-NYAH-rohn They/You (formal, plural) used to bathe

Some expressions you would typically use with the imperfect tense includes but is not limited to:

  • cuando era niño/niña (KWAHN-doh Eh-rah NEE-nyo/NEE-nya) means 'when I was a child' -masculine and feminine
  • durante mi adolescencia (doo-RAHN-teh mee ah-doh-leh-SEHN-seeah) means 'during my teenage years'

Let's go back to Mariela to hear her talk about how or when she used to bathe:

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