Conjugating Reflexive Verbs

A reflexive verb infinitive is identified by its reflexive pronoun se, which is placed before the infinitive and that serves as a direct or indirect object pronoun. A reflexive verb shows that the subject is performing the action upon itself and, therefore, the subject and the reflexive pronoun refer to the same person or thing, as in je m' appelle (I call myself), which is translated to “My name is.”

Some verbs must always be reflexive, whereas other verbs may be made reflexive by adding the correct object pronoun. The meaning of some verbs varies depending upon whether or not the verb is used reflexively.

Reflexive verbs are always conjugated with the reflexive pronoun that agrees with the subject: me (myself), te (yourself), se (himself, herself, itself, themselves), nous (ourselves), and vous (yourself, yourselves). These pronouns generally precede the verb. Follow the rules for conjugating regular verbs, verbs with spelling changes, and irregular verbs, depending on of the tense, as shown in Table 1:

Reflexive constructions have the following translations:

  • Present tense: Je me lave. (I wash myself.)
  • Imperfect tense:: Je me lavais. (I was washing [used to] myself.)
  • Future tense: Je me laverai. (I will wash myself.)
  • Conditional: Je me laverais. (I would wash myself.)

Consider the following most commonly used reflexive verbs. Those marked with asterisks have shoe verb spelling change within the infinitive.

  • s'approcher de (approach)
  • s'arrêter de (stop)
  • se baigner (bathe, swim)
  • se blesser (hurt oneself)
  • se bronzer (tan)
  • se brosser (brush)
  • se brûler (burn oneself)
  • se casser (break)
  • se coiffer (do one's hair)
  • se coucher (go to bed)
  • se couper (cut oneself)
  • se demander (wonder)
  • se dépêcher (hurry)
  • se déshabiller (undress)
  • se détendre (relax)
  • s'endormir (go to sleep)
  • se fâcher (get angry)
  • s'habiller (dress)
  • s'impatienter (become impatient)
  • s'inquiéter de* (worry about)
  • se laver (wash)
  • se lever* (get up)
  • se maquiller (apply make‐up)
  • se mettre à (begin)
  • s'occuper de (take care of)
  • se peigner (comb)
  • se présenter (introduce oneself)
  • se promener* (take a walk)
  • se rappeler* (recall)
  • se raser (shave)
  • se reposer (rest)
  • se réunir (meet)
  • se réveiller (wake up)
  • se servir de (use)
  • se tromper (make a mistake)

In addition, some French verbs are always reflexive despite the fact that in English they are not:

  • s'écrier (exclaim, cry out)
  • s'en aller (leave, go away)
  • se fier à (trust)
  • se méfier de (distrust)
  • se moquer de (make fun of)
  • se soucier de (care about)
  • se souvenir de (remember)

When a subject is followed by two verbs (and keep in mind that when the first one is conjugated, the second must be in the infinitive, the reflexive pronoun precedes the infinitive, because its meaning is tied to that verb:

  • Je vais me dépêcher. (I'm going to hurry.)
  • Il ne va pas se raser. (He's not going to shave.)