As the name suggests, reflexive verbs are so commonly used that they almost feel like a ‘reflex’ reaction of a language. Whether it’s talking about your day or portraying feelings and even to the first greeting with a stranger, reflexive verbs exist everywhere.
The following is a table that shows which subject pronoun corresponds to reflexive pronoun:
|Subject Pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun|
|Je (I)||me (myself)|
|Tu (You)||te (yourself)|
|Il/Elle/On (He/She/ It/We)||se (him/her/itself, oneself, ourselves)|
|Nous (We)||nous (ourselves)|
|Vous (Plural/Formal You)||vous (yourselves)|
|Ils/Elles (They)||se (themselves)|
The formula to remember basic construction is:
Reflexive verb + reflexive pronoun = subject of the sentence
Let’s now delve into situations where reflexive verbs are used.
1. For Actions with Yourself
Here, phrases are majorly about emotions. Actions then get reflected back on the basis of a mental or emotional sense.
Je me dépêche (I am hurrying)
Ils s’amusent (They are having fun)
Sometimes reflexive pronouns can act as direct object instead like – est-ce qu’il t’ennuie (does he bore you?), ‘te’ here isn’t reflexive pronoun.
2. For Actions Done to Oneself
As the title states, reflexive verbs are used for actions that are involved in daily activities or with the body. If you are talking about an action that happens on you, then it doesn’t matter if the reflexive verb gets employed in English or not, it is used in French.
Elle se réveille (She wakes up)
Vous vous brossez les cheveux (You brush your hair)
3. For Verbs in Need
Whether there is addition to meaning or not, some verbs cannot exist or don’t make sense without reflexive pronouns added to them. These are primarily dependant on your memory retention.
Se souvenir de moi (Remember me)
Sometimes more information needs to be added to make sense and in contrary if reflexive pronouns are removed the meaning of the verb changes such as se server is ‘to use’ but without ‘se’, it means ‘to serve’.
4. Reflexive Verbs + Passé Composé
As we know Passé Composé conjugates with être and avoir. However, when it comes to reflexive verbs, the constructions happen with only être otherwise it takes avoir.
Nous nous sommes assis à l’arrière (We sat at the back)
Some points to remember:
- The past participles in Passé Composé sentences with reflexive verbs need to agree with gender and number such as in the example above because of the presence of nous, assi has an extra ‘s’.
- When there is direct object in the sentence then the action is directed there which means there needs to be no agreement such as Nous nous sommes brossé les dents (We brushed our teeth).
5. Reflexive Verbs and Infinitives
In the original form as found within a dictionary, reflexive verbs have a fixed infinitive – se. But when combined with a sentence, they have to agree with the subject. As a rule, the reflexive pronoun needs to be with infinitive and not be placed before the conjugated verb.
Se réveiller (to wake)
Je vais me réveiller à six heures du matin
(I am going to wake [myself] up at seven in the morning)
Tips for Your Success
1. All reflexive pronouns are always placed before the pronouns en or y.
Elle s’est promenée (She went for a walk)
2. In negative sentences, the formula is Subject Pronoun + Ne + Reflexive Pronoun (Pronom Réfléchi) + Auxiliary Verb (Verbe Auxiliare) + Pas + Past Participle (Participe Passé)
Il ne s’énervait pas (He was not becoming angry)
3. From all the examples till now, it is fitting to end with saying that reflexive pronoun is always placed before the auxiliary verb (verbe auxiliaire) and the past participle (participe passé).
Elle se doucha (She showered)
By now you must have grasped the complex world of reflexive verbs. The only bit left is to use them and solve as many activities as possible. After all – Practice makes a man or woman perfect. For more learning assistance, you can take the help of any Online French Tutor. See you next lesson!