The verb animar can be used in Spanish with or without reflexive pronouns. Depending on how we use it it has a different meaning.
Animar - non-reflexive
Animar (algo) = to liven up/to spice up (something)
When we use animar with this meaning it works as a transitive verb with whatever is being livened/spiced up as the direct object. For example:
La llegada de las chicas animó la fiesta.The arrival of the girls livened up the party.
La música flamenca animaba mucho el ambiente del bar.The flamenco music spiced up the atmosphere in the bar.
Animar (a alguien)
Animar a alguien = to cheer someone up
We also use animar as a transitive verb. The person who is cheered up is the direct object preceded by "a". For example:
Intenté animar a Clara porque estaba un poco triste.I tried to cheer Clara up because she was a bit sad.
The direct object could also be a direct object pronoun:
Clara está un poco triste. Ve y anímala.Clara is a bit sad. Go and cheer her up.
Ahora tenemos que animarlos. Están destrozados después de perder el partido.We have to cheer them up now. They are very upset after losing the match.
Animar (a alguien a hacer algo)
Animar a alguien a hacer algo
= to encourage someone to do something
To express this remember that you need to put "a" in front of the direct object (person) and another "a" in front of the verb that follows it.
Julián animó a Mercedes a aceptar esa oferta de trabajo en Brasil.Julián encouraged Mercedes to accept that job offer in Brasil.
The person who is being encouraged can be represented by a direct object pronoun:
Julián la animó a aceptar esa oferta de trabajo en Brasil.Julián encouraged her to accept that job offer in Brasil.
Animar -reflexive/pronominal verb
Animarse = to cheer (oneself) up
When used as a pronominal verb using reflexive pronouns it means "to cheer up", for example:
¡Vamos, anímate!Come on, cheer up!
Después de tomarnos unas copas de vino nos animamos y nos pusimos a bailar.After having some glasses of wine we cheered up/livened up and started to dance.
Animarse (a hacer algo)
Animarse a hacer algo = to bring/motivate [yourself] to do something
With this specific meaning we use the verb animarse in its reflexive form and use "a" before the verb that follows it. For example:
No se anima a apuntarse a las clases de salsa, así que tendré que ir sola.He can't bring himself to join the salsa classes so I will have to go by myself.
Quizás al final me anime a ir a esa conferencia.I might motivate myself to go to that conference in the end.
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