Did you know that reflexive verbs do exist in English, but they are not as commonly used as they are in French.
In English, reflexive verbs are formed by adding the reflexive pronoun “self” (singular) or “selves” (plural) to the end of a verb.
• I cut myself while shaving. (Je me suis coupé en me rasant)
• They taught themselves how to play guitar. (Ils ont appris à jouer à la guitare eux-mêmes)
• She finds herself constantly thinking about him. (Elle se trouve à penser à lui constamment)
In these examples, “myself,” “themselves,” and “herself” are reflexive pronouns that indicate that the subject is performing the action on themselves.
It’s worth noting that some English verbs have reflexive forms that are not used reflexively in the same way as they are in French. For example, “to enjoy” has a reflexive form (“to enjoy oneself”), but it is not used to indicate that the subject is performing the action on themselves. Instead, it simply means “to have a good time.”
The basic working of Reflexive verbs:
In French, reflexive verbs are very common and are formed by adding the reflexive pronoun “se” before the verb. The reflexive pronoun matches the subject of the verb and indicates that the subject is performing the action on themselves.
• Je me lave les mains. (I wash my hands.)
• Tu te brosses les dents. (You brush your teeth.)
• Il se coupe souvent en cuisinant. (He often cuts himself while cooking.)
Note that the reflexive pronoun “se” changes depending on the subject of the verb. Here are the different forms of the reflexive pronoun:
• Je me
• Tu te
• Il/elle/on se
• Nous nous
• Vous vous
• Ils/elles se
Also if a reflexive pronoun (me, te, se) is followed by a vowel or a mute h, it can be elided i.e. the E is dropped, in order to improve the flow of speech. For example, “Je m’amuse bien’ (I’m having fun) or Elle ne s’entendent pas (they don’t get along)
Here’s a video introduction to Reflexive verbs in French
❤️Learn the reflexive pronouns used in French ❤️
Encore des exemples pour vous:
1. s’abstenir – to abstain (ex: Il s’est abstenu de boire de l’alcool. – He abstained from drinking alcohol.)
2. s’amuser – to have fun (ex: Nous nous sommes bien amusés à la fête. – We had a lot of fun at the party.)
3. se brosser – to brush (ex: Elle se brosse les cheveux tous les matins. – She brushes her hair every morning.)
4. se coucher – to go to bed (ex: Je me couche à minuit tous les soirs. – I go to bed at midnight every night.)
5. se doucher – to shower (ex: Ils se douchent après le sport. – They shower after sports.)
6. se fâcher – to get angry (ex: Elle s’est fâchée contre lui. – She got angry at him.)
7. se habiller – to get dressed (ex: Il se prépare et s’habille pour aller travailler. – He gets ready and dressed to go to work.)
8. s’occuper – to take care of (ex: Nous nous occupons des enfants ce soir. – We’re taking care of the kids tonight.)
9. se lever – to get up (ex: Il se lève tôt le matin. – He gets up early in the morning.)
10. se maquiller – to put on makeup (ex: Elle se maquille avant de sortir. – She puts on makeup before going out.)
11. se marier – to get married (ex: Ils se sont mariés l’été dernier. – They got married last summer.)
12. se méfier – to be suspicious (ex: Il se méfie de ses collègues. – He is suspicious of his colleagues.)
13. se moquer – to make fun of (ex: Il se moque toujours des autres. – He always makes fun of others.)
14. se plaindre – to complain (ex: Elle se plaint souvent de son travail. – She often complains about her job.)
15. se préparer – to get ready (ex: Nous nous préparons pour le voyage à Paris. – We’re getting ready for the trip to Paris.)
16. se promener – to go for a walk (ex: Nous nous promenons dans le parc. – We’re going for a walk in the park.)
17. se rappeler – to remember (ex: Je me rappelle ce que tu m’as dit hier. – I remember what you told me yesterday.)
18. se reposer – to rest (ex: Elle se repose après une longue journée. – She’s resting after a long day.)
19. se retrouver – to meet up (ex: Nous nous retrouvons au restaurant à huit heures. – We’re meeting up at the restaurant at eight.)
20. se réveiller – to wake up (ex: Il se réveille à six heures tous les matins. – He wakes up at six every morning.)
21. se rincer – to rinse (ex: Elle se rince la bouche après avoir mangé. – She rinses her mouth after eating.)
22. se salir – to get dirty (ex: Il s’est sali en jouant dans le jardin. – He got dirty playing in the garden.)
23. se sentir – to feel (ex: Je me sens bien aujourd’hui. – I feel good today.)
24. se souvenir – to remember (ex: Nous nous souvenons de notre première rencontre. – We remember our first meeting.)
25. se taire – to be quiet (ex: Ils se sont tus pendant la réunion. – They were quiet during the meeting.)
26. se tromper – to be mistaken (ex: Tu te trompes de chemin. – You’re mistaken about the way.)
27. se trouver – to be located (ex: La gare se trouve en centre-ville. – The train station is located in the city center.)
28. se vendre – to sell oneself (ex: Elle sait se vendre pour trouver un travail. – She knows how to sell herself to find a job.)
29. se voir – to see each other (ex: Nous nous voyons souvent le week-end. – We see each other often on weekends.)
30. se vexer – to get offended (ex: Elle s’est vexée par ses remarques. – She got offended by his remarks.)
Note that the translations are not always direct word-for-word translations, but they capture the general meaning of the reflexive verbs in each sentence.
Have you heard about Reciprocal verbs?
French also has reciprocal verbs, which indicate that two or more people are performing the same action on each other. Reciprocal verbs are formed by adding the reflexive pronoun “se” twice before the verb.
• Nous nous sommes embrassés. (We kissed each other.)
• Ils se sont serré la main. (They shook hands with each other.)
In summary, reflexive verbs in French are formed by adding the reflexive pronoun “se” before the verb, and the reflexive pronoun changes depending on the subject. Reciprocal verbs are formed by adding the reflexive pronoun before the verb to indicate that two or more people are performing the same action on each other.
1. se téléphoner – to call each other
2. se sourire – to smile at each other
3. se disputer – to argue with each other
4. se pardonner – to forgive each other
5. se saluer – to greet each other
6. se comprendre – to understand each other
7. se moquer l’un de l’autre – to make fun of each other
8. se donner rendez-vous – to arrange to meet each other
9. se séduire – to seduce each other
10. se conseiller – to give each other advice
A more advanced tricky point with Reflexive verbs
Finally – some French verbs have both a transitive and a reflexive form, and the meanings of these forms can be different. For example, “passer” can mean “to pass” or “to go by,” while “se passer” can mean “to happen” or “to occur.”
To differentiate between these two forms, it’s important to pay attention to the presence of the reflexive pronoun “se” before the verb. When “se” is present, it indicates that the verb is reflexive and that the subject is performing the action on themselves. In the case of “se passer,” the reflexive pronoun indicates that the action is happening to the subject, rather than being performed by the subject.
Additionally, the context of the sentence can often help clarify which form of the verb is being used. In the sentence “Je passe le pont,” the transitive form of “passer” is being used to indicate that the subject is physically passing over a bridge. In the sentence “Il se passe quelque chose d’étrange,” the reflexive form of “passer” is being used to indicate that something strange is happening, rather than the subject performing an action on an object.
Here are some more examples of pairs of verbs that have both a transitive and reflexive form, with slightly different meanings:
❤️ Stop Confusing these French Reflexive and Non Reflexive Verbs ❤️
Reflexive verbs in Idiomatic expressions
Red font for French verb and example
Idiomatic expressions: French has many idiomatic expressions that use reflexive verbs, and these expressions often have a figurative meaning that is different from the literal meaning of the verb.
1. se prendre pour un coq – to act like a rooster (i.e. to be overly proud or arrogant)
Exemple: “Il se prend pour un coq depuis qu’il a gagné la partie de tennis.” (He’s acting like a rooster ever since he won the tennis game.)
2. se mettre dans la peau de quelqu’un – to put oneself in someone’s shoes (i.e. to empathize with someone)
Exemple: “Imagine-toi dans la peau d’un chat, comment te sentirais-tu ?” (Put yourself in the shoes of a cat, how would you feel?)
3. se fendre la poire – to crack up (i.e. to laugh uncontrollably) (informal)
Exemple: “On s’est fendu la poire devant ce film comique.” (We cracked up watching that comedy film.)
4. se prendre une veste – to get the cold shoulder (i.e. to be ignored or rejected)
Exemple: “Je lui ai demandé de sortir avec moi mais j’ai pris une veste.” (I asked her out but got the cold shoulder.)
5. se faire la belle – to make a run for it (i.e. to escape or run away)
Exemple: “Le prisonnier s’est fait la belle en creusant un tunnel.” (The prisoner made a run for it by digging a tunnel.)
6. se casser la tête – to rack one’s brain (i.e. to think hard about something)
Exemple: “J’ai passé des heures à me casser la tête sur ce problème.” (I spent hours racking my brain on this problem.)
7. se jeter des fleurs – to pat oneself on the back (i.e. to boast or brag)
Exemple: “Il se jette des fleurs en disant qu’il est le meilleur danseur.” (He’s patting himself on the back by saying he’s the best dancer.)
8. s’emballer – to get carried away (i.e. to become overly enthusiastic)
Exemple: “Ne t’emballe pas trop vite, on ne sait pas encore si c’est une bonne idée.” (Don’t get carried away too quickly, we don’t know yet if it’s a good idea.)
9. se la couler douce – to take it easy (i.e. to relax and enjoy oneself)
Exemple: “Je vais passer le week-end à la campagne pour me la couler douce.” (I’m going to spend the weekend in the countryside to take it easy.)
10. se mettre le doigt dans l’œil – to be mistaken (i.e. to have a wrong impression or idea)
Exemple: “S’il pense que c’est facile, il se met le doigt dans l’œil.” (If he thinks it’s easy, he’s mistaken.)
In conclusion, mastering reflexive verbs in French can take time and practice, but the effort is well worth it. These verbs are useful in everyday communication and can help you express yourself more accurately and fluently in French. It’s important to take it one step at a time and practice regularly, starting with the most common verbs and gradually expanding your vocabulary. Don’t get discouraged if it takes time to master these verbs, remember that language learning is a journey and every step counts. With patience and perseverance, you’ll be able to use reflexive verbs with ease and confidence in no time.
Bonne chance! (Good luck!)
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