'Morir' vs. 'Morirse'

Reflexive Form Adds Little Change in Meaning

Lápida en Cercedilla, España. (Tombstone in Cercedilla, Spain.). Photo by Frank Black Noir; licensed via Creative Commons.

Question: I am reading your explanation on caer and caerse and am interested to know if you have addressed morir and morirse. Not being a native speaker, those two verbs are very confusing for me and my students.

Answer: That's a great question. Although some verbs, like caer, are used in the reflexive form to indicate an unexpected action, that isn't the case with morir, which typically means "to die" (either literally or figuratively).

In general, it is always grammatically correct to use morir (the nonreflexive form) to mean "to die." Some examples:

  • Mi perrita murió hace 3 días. My puppy died three days ago.
  • Mi padre murió y no sabemos cuál era su contraseña. My father died, and we don't know what his password was.
  • Si elegimos no hacer nada, entonces la esperanza morirá. If we choose to do nothing, then hope will die.
  • Muere de cáncer la cantante mexicana. The Mexican singer is dying of cancer.
  • Al menos cinco soldados murieron y ocho resultaron heridos. At least five soldiers died and eight were injured.

Although not mandatory in such instances, the reflexive form, morirse can be used when speaking about a natural death, especially one that didn't come suddenly. It can also be used when speaking of friends or relatives. Some examples:

  • Los dinosaurios no se murieron de frío. The dinosaurs didn't die of cold.
  • Mi amigo se murió hace dos días en un trágico accidente. My friend died two days ago in a tragic accident.
  • Yo me moriré sin tus besos. I will die without your kisses.
  • Me choca cuando se mueren los escritores que me gustan. I am shocked when writers that I like die.
  • Mis abuelos se murieron en Colombia y yo no pude ir a sus funerales. My grandparents died in Colombia and I couldn't go to their funerals.

However, this isn't a hard and fast rule. You might also think of morirse as being more informal or less "serious-sounding" than morir. Or you might think of morirse as a somewhat softer form of the verb. If you're uncertain which one to use, morir is probably the safer choice.

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Erichsen, Gerald. "'Morir' vs. 'Morirse'." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/morir-vs-morirse-3079758. Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). 'Morir' vs. 'Morirse'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/morir-vs-morirse-3079758 Erichsen, Gerald. "'Morir' vs. 'Morirse'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/morir-vs-morirse-3079758 (accessed June 4, 2023).