Reflexive Verbs

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. A reflexive verb infinitive is identified by the reflexive pronoun se, which is placed before the infinitive. This pronoun may serve as a direct or indirect object pronoun, as in je me lave (I wash myself).

Here are a couple examples of reflexive verbs in sentences:

  • La cliente se demande si elle peut regarder la carte du jour. (The client wonders if she can see today's menu.)
  • Ne vous y trompez pas, il ne trompe personne. (Make no mistake, he doesn't fool anybody.)

Use the pronoun that corresponds to the subject and follow the rules for conjugating regular verbs, verbs with spelling changes, and irregular verbs, as shown in Table 1.

 Common reflexive verbs include:

  • s'amuser (have fun, to have a good time)
  • s'appeler (to be named)
  • s'approcher de (to approach)
  • s'arrêter de (to stop)
  • s'asseoir (to sit)
  • se baigner (to bathe, to swim)
  • se blesser (to hurt)
  • se bronzer (to tan)
  • se brosser (to brush)
  • se brûler (to burn)
  • se cacher (to hide)
  • se casser (to break)
  • se coiffer (to do one's hair)
  • se conduire (to behave)
  • se coucher (to go to bed)
  • se couper (to cut)
  • se décider à (to decide)
  • se demander (to wonder)
  • se douter de (to suspect)
  • se dépêcher (to hurry)
  • se déshabiller (to undress)
  • se détendre (to relax)
  • s'échapper (to escape)
  • s'éloigner de (to move away from)
  • s'endormir (to go to sleep)
  • s'entendre (to get along with)
  • s'exprimer (to express)
  • se fâcher (to get angry)
  • s'habiller (to dress)
  • s'habituer à (to get used to)
  • s'impatienter (to become impatient)
  • s'inquiéter de* (to worry about)
  • se laver (to wash)
  • se lever* (to get up)
  • se maquiller (to apply makeup)
  • se mettre à (to begin)
  • s'occuper de (to take care of)
  • se passer (to happen)
  • se peigner (to comb)
  • se plaindre de (to complain about)
  • se préparer (to prepare)
  • se présenter (to introduce oneself)
  • se promener* (to take a walk)
  • se rappeler* (to recall)
  • se raser (to shave)
  • se rencontrer (to meet)
  • se reposer (to rest)
  • se retrouver (to meet again)
  • se réunir (to meet)
  • se réveiller (to wake up)
  • se sauver (to run away)
  • se sentir (to feel)
  • se servir de (to use)
  • se tromper (to make a mistake)
  • se trouver (to be)
  • se vanter de (to boast)

* denotes a “shoe verb” spelling change within the infinitive

Some verbs may or may not be reflexive, depending on whether the pronoun used refers to the subject or to another person:

  • Je me parle. (I speak to myself.)
  • Je leur parle. (I speak to them.)

Some verbs are always reflexive:

  • s'écrier (to exclaim, to cry out)
  • s'écrouler (to collapse)
  • s'efforcer de (to strive to)
  • s'en aller (to leave, to go away)
  • s'enfuir (to flee)
  • s'évanouir (to faint)
  • se fier à (to trust)
  • se méfier de (to distrust)
  • se moquer de (to make fun of)
  • se soucier de (to care about)
  • se souvenir de (to remember)

The meanings of some verbs may change depending on whether or not the verb is used reflexively, as shown in Table 2.