Abrir or Abrirse? Spanish Sticking Point no.1

Even after years of study and actually living in Spain itself I still have a whole list of word choices that trip me up every time. I usually know the right answer it’s just that when the moment arrives to use a word my brain comes to a momentary halt hovering between two possible choices. My flow gets interupted and I get a bit angry that I can’t get that particular grammar point to stick in my mind.

These are my Spanish Sticking Points and I have decided to make them the focus of my learning efforts for the next few weeks. The theory is that if I can crack these recurring obstacles it will make my whole flow improve and increase my confidence again, which has been a bit low lately. A new job plus the excessive Spanish Christmas celebrations have taken their toll on my fragile study habits.

But that’s why I write this blog. To shame myself into practising more, so here goes with sticking point number one.

Confusion about when to use abrir or abrirse.

I open a box – abro una caja. OK simple example. Abrir. Someone opens something. Easy.

What time do you open the restaurant? – ¿A qué hora abres el restaurante? Still easy. Someone opens a restaurant. Subject and object. Simple.

What time does the restaurant open? – err.??! Reflexive? Does the restaurant open itself or does an unmentioned person open it? This is where I get confused. The native experts I know say non-reflexive, so ¿A qué hora abre el restaurante?

But what’s this? Cuando se abrió la puerta, se rompió. Did the window blow open, hence the reflexive use, or does it matter if someone opened it?

And using my previously mentioned super Spanish example research technique, I find this use in El Pais. Si se abre el restaurante de noche puedo ver problemas. My experts tell me this is a bit fussy but correct.

So, I am still slightly confused but justifiably so I think. Do any of you have some more usage examples to help me towards some clarity? Please leave them in the comments below if you do. Thanks.

By Steve

I live and work in Barcelona, Spain. I made this site to give myself more motivation to study Spanish. I think we all need that at times.

3 replies on “Abrir or Abrirse? Spanish Sticking Point no.1”

I think that ¿A qué hora se abre el restaurant? is correct with the se and not wihout.

It’s not a reflexive verb but we use se because it’s the passive. It’s opening itself or we don’t know whom is opening the shop. You can only really say in English, “what time do you open the shop” to the person who will open it, its more common to use the passive, i.e. what time does the shop open? Muy paracido, no?

Second example given, equates to “When the door opened, it broke.

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