Reading time: 4 minutes Difficulty: Intermediate- Advanced
I can sense your reaction. It goes like this: French reflexive verbs? Say whaat?
But fear not, we will change all that with a quick read. Before you know it, you’ll be quite knowledgeable about the topic (or not)—it all really depends on how interested you are.
But anyway, let’s start.
Reflexive verbs are action words that refer to the same subject and object. Meaning, the person being talked about in the sentence is doing the action to himself.
In English, it often appears with reflexive pronouns such as myself, himself, herself, or themselves. (Example: The cat bathed itself.)
Reflexive verbs work basically the same way in French as in English. However, it is used more widely in the former than we normally do in English.
A reflexive verb consists of a reflexive pronoun and a verb. In dictionaries, these verbs appear as se + the infinitive form.
Some common examples:
The group of verbs known as reflexive verbs share some distinct commonalities. These include the following:
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to use the reflexive verbs.
Step 1: decide which reflexive pronoun to use, based on the subject (which is also the object of the sentence). It could be either of the following:
|Subject pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun||What It Means|
|il/elle/on||se (s')||himself/ herself/ itself/ oneself|
|vous||vous||yourself (formal)/ yourselves (formal or informal)|
Step 2: Use this basic format: subject pronoun + reflexive pronoun + reflexive verb.
For example: Je me lève. I get up.
Il s’habille. He is getting dressed.
Step 3: Determine the endings to use. The present tense form and the endings to be used remain the same: -e, -es, -e, -ons, -ez, and -ent. (For more information about present tense endings, see the lesson on present tense by clicking HERE).
Some very simple examples that involves a lot of washing:
|je me lave.||I wash myself.|
|tu te laves.||You wash yourself.|
|il se lave.||He washes himself.|
|nous nous lavons.||We wash ourselves.|
|vous vous lavez.||You wash yourselves.|
|ils se lavent.||They wash themselves.|
To form the reflexive verbs in the past tense, we use the ever-helpful verb être as its auxiliary. Here is a little step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Choose the correct conjugated form of être and pair it with the past participle of the reflexive verb. Note that the past participle for reflexive verbs is the same for the regular verbs.
je me suis amusé(e) I had fun
tu t'es amusé(e) you had fun
il / on s'est amusé he / one had fun
elle s'est amusée she had fun
nous nous sommes amusé(e)s we had fun
vous vous êtes amusé(e)(s) you had fun
ils se sont amusés they had fun
elles se sont amusées they had fun
Step 2 : Use this basic format: subject pronoun + reflexive pronoun + conjugated être + reflexive verb.
Remember that the reflexive pronoun still precedes the compound reflexive verb form.
Step 3: Make the past participle agree with the gender and number of the reflexive pronoun. Note how in the examples in step 1 there is an extra –e and –s added at the end of some of the past participles? This happens in most cases: an e is added to the past participle to make it agree with a feminine subject and an s is added for a plural subject.
As always, there are exceptions. So –
Step 4: Determine if there is a need for agreement or not. Remember that you do not need to bother with past participle agreements during the following cases:
The following reflexive verbs are always used with an indirect object reflexive pronoun.
s'acheter to buy
se demander to wonder
se dire to say
sedonner to give
s'écrire to write
se faire mal to hurt
s'imaginer to imagine, to think
se parler to talk
se plaire (à faire...) to enjoy (doing...)
se procurer to obtain
se promettre to promise
se raconter to tell
se rendre compte de to realize
se rendre visite to visit
se reprocher to criticize, blame
se ressembler to resemble
se rire to mock
se sourire to smile
se téléphoner to call
There are three simple things you need to remember when using reflexive pronouns and these are :
Example: Elle se couche tôt.She goes to bed early.
Example: Ne vous habillez pas.Do not get dressed.
Example: Lève-toi !Get up!
Remember: toi for positive, te (t’) for negative.
Quick reminders before we end this article:
So with that, we say bye bye!
P.S: If you need clarifications about the topics, please ask us in the comment section.
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Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +