Categories: French Grammar

Reflexive verbs I

Reflexive verbs I

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1- What is a reflexive sentence?

A sentence which subject performs an action upon itself.

For example: I enjoy myself, ‘I’ is the subject and “myself” is the pronoun related to the same person, so as you can see, you need to know the reflexive pronouns in French: Je m’amuse.

Reflexive Pronouns:

Pronouns Pronoms
Myself Me, m’ Moi-même
Yourself Te, t’ Toi-même
Himself Se, s’ Lui-même
Herself Se, s’ Elle-même
Itself Se, s’ Lui or elle-même
Ourselves Nous Nous-mêmes
Yourself Vous (formal) Vous-même
Yourselves Vous (plural) Vous-mêmes
Themselves Se, s’ Eux-mêmes
Themselves Se, s’ Elles-mêmes
Oneself Se, s’ Soi-même

We have two reflexive pronouns in French depending on the verb, we have true reflexive verbs like “se laver” (to wash oneself) and we can build a reflexive sentence with the x-même pronouns:

Je me lave, tu te laves…
Je termine moi-même, tu termines toi-mêmes

Most of the verbs related to the body are reflexive in French.

I am washing my hands becomes in French I am washing myself the hands: Je me lave les mains.
You are taking a shower: tu te douches, the verb is “se doucher” (prendre une douche is correct too)
He gets dressed: il s’habille (s’habiller)
We are combing our hair: nous nous peignons (se peigner)
You are waking up: vous vous réveillez (se réveiller)
They put on makeup: elles se maquillent (se maquiller)

So, some verbs are reflexive in English and in French (to enjoy oneself: s’amuser), some are reflexive in French but not in English.

2- What is a reciprocal sentence?

The people or things included in the subject perform an action upon each other.

We are phoning each other, in French we use a reciprocal verb: se téléphoner (like a reflexive verb)
Nous nous téléphonons.

They shake theirs hands: ils se serrent la main (se serrer)

Of course, you can’t invent these verbs, you need to know them, but there is no difficulties.

Sometimes to stress the sentence, we add the two pronouns: Je me lave moi-même, you insist because you want to say that you don’t need any help!

The difficulty comes with the agreement of the past participle, there is a lesson for that.

 3- Some Reflexive and Reciprocal Verbs:

Se baigner: to bath
Se brosser: to brush
Se coucher: to go to bed
Se dépêcher: to hurry up
Se déshabiller: to get undressed
Se fâcher: to get angry
Se lever: to get up
Se promener: to take a walk
Se reposer: to rest
Se réveiller: to wake up
S’ennuyer: to be bored
S’en aller: to be off
S’endormir: to fall asleep
Se moquer: to laugh at
S’excuser: to apologize
S’asseoir: to sit down
Se rappeler: to remember (rappeler is to call back or to call again)
Se souvenir: to remember

The translation of ‘I apologize’ is not “je m’excuse” but “je vous demande de m’excuser”, it seems a bit long but in French you can’t “excuse” yourself but you ask for someone to “excuse” you.
“Se souvenir” is a prepositional verb as “on se souvient DE quelque chose”, however “se rappeler” is not “on se rappelle quelque chose”.

Pascal Dherve

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Pascal Dherve

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