Toolbox | Trousse


Verbs | Les verbes

Reflexive verbs | Les verbes réfléchis



Reflexive verbs:
  • express reflexive actions performed by the subject upon himself, herself, or itself

  • are pronominal verbs (verbs that are accompanied by an object pronoun)

  • are characterized by the use of the reflexive pronouns | les pronoms réfléchis (such as me, te, se)

  • are used with the auxiliary être to form the past tense or compound tenses

  • have to do with:

    • one's body (such as to do your hair | se coiffer, to blow one’s nose | se moucher )

    • one's clothing (such as to get dressed | s’habiller, to put on one’s shoes| se chausser)

    • one's own personal circumstances (such as to get used to | s’habituer, to rest | se reposer)

    • one’s daily routines (such as to go to bed | se coucher, to wake up | se réveiller)




The following lists include some common reflexive verbs.

s’acheter | to buy (oneself)

s’agenouiller | to kneel (down)

s’allonger | to lie down

s’appeler | to be called

s’arrêter | to stop (oneself)

s’asseoir | to sit (down)

s’avancer | to advance (oneself)

s’écrire | to write (oneself)

s’éloigner | to move (oneself) away

s’endormir | to fall asleep

s’étirer | to stretch (oneself)

s’exprimer | to express (oneself)

s’habiller | to dress (oneself)

se baigner | to bathe (oneself)

se bercer | to rock (oneself)

se blesser | to hurt (oneself)

se brosser les cheveux/les dents | to brush one’s hair/teeth

se cacher | to hide oneself

se changer | to change (oneself)

se coiffer | to fix one’s hair

se corriger | to correct (oneself)

se coucher | to go to bed

se couper | to cut (one’s hair, oneself)

se débarbouiller | to wash one’s face

se déguiser | to disguise (oneself)

se démaquiller | to take off one’s make up

se dépêcher | to hurry (oneself)

se déplacer | to move (oneself) around

se déshabiller | to undress (oneself)

se doucher | to shower (oneself)

se gratter | to scratch (oneself)

se laver | to wash (oneself)

se lever | to get up

se maquiller | to put on one’s make up

se peigner | to comb one’s hair

se pencher | to bend over

se préparer | to get ready

se promener | to take a walk

se raser | to shave (oneself)

se reculer | to back (oneself) up

se regarder | to look at oneself

se répéter | to repeat (oneself)

se reposer | to rest (oneself)

se retourner | to turn (oneself) around

se réveiller | to wake up

se salir | to dirty (oneself)

se sècher | to dry (oneself) off


Reflexive Pronouns | Les pronoms réfléchis

Reflexive verbs are always conjugated with a reflexive pronoun. Reflexive pronouns always precede the verb and agree with the subject of the verb: me (myself), te (yourself), se (himself, herself, itself, themselves [m. or f.]), nous (ourselves), and vous (yourself [s.], yourselves [pl.]).

If a verb begins with a vowel or a silent h the reflexive pronouns become:

me m’, te t’ and se s’.


Reflexive Pronouns | Les pronoms réfléchis


Myself,

Me

me

m’

Examples | Les exemples

Je me lave les mains. | I wash my hands.

Je m’habille proprement. | I dress (myself) neatly.


Yourself,

You

te

t’

Examples | Les exemples

Tu te laves les mains. | You wash your hands.

Tu t’habilles comfortablement. | You dress (yourself) comfortably.



Himself,

Him

se

s’

Examples | Les exemples

Il se lave les mains. | He washes his hands.

Il s’habille parfaitement. | He dresses (himself) perfectly.

Méric se rase. | Méric shaves (himself).


Herself,

Her

se

s’

Examples | Les exemples

Elle se lave les mains. | She washes her hands.

Elle s’habille professionnellement. | She dresses (herself) professionally.

Natalie se peigne. | Natalie combs her hair.


Itself,

It

se

s’

Examples | Les exemples

Le raton-laveur se lave les mains. | The racoon washes its hands.

Le chat s’étire. | The cat stretches (itself).


Ourselves,

Us


nous

Examples | Les exemples

Nous nous lavons les mains. | We wash our hands.

Nous nous habillons rapidement. | We dress (ourselves) quickly.


Yourself,

Yourselves

vous

Examples | Les exemples

Vous vous lavez les mains. | You wash your hands.

Vous vous habillez lentement. | You dress (yourself/yourselves) slowly.


Themselves (masculine)


se

s’

Examples | Les exemples

Ils se lavent les mains. | They wash their hands.

Ils s’habillent convenablement. | They dress themselves properly.

Les joueurs de hockey se préparent pour la joute. | The (male) hockey players prepare (themselves) for the game.


Themselves (feminine)


se

s’

Examples | Les exemples

Elles se lavent les mains. | They wash their hands.

Elles s’habillent chaudement. | They dress (themselves) warmly.

Les joueuses de hockey se préparent pour la joute. | The (female) hockey players prepare (themselves) for the game.



How to Conjugate Reflexive Verbs | Comment conjuguer les verbes réfléchis

Reflexive verbs appear in their infinitive form with the reflexive pronoun se.

Infinitive | L’infinitif

se frotter | to rub (oneself)

se brûler | to burn (oneself)

se bronzer | to tan (oneself)


The first step in conjugating pronominal verbs in the present tense (or non compound forms such as future or imperfect tenses), is to change the reflexive pronoun se to agree with the subject of the verb. Then conjugate the verb accordingly (Conjugating ER, IR, RE verbs).


Present | Le présent

Je me frotte les yeux. | I rub my eyes.

Tu te frotte les yeux. | You rub your eyes.

Il se frotte les yeux. | He rubs his eyes.

Elle se frotte les yeux.| She rubs her eyes.

On se frotte les yeux. | We rub our eyes.

Le chat se frotte les yeux.| The cat rubs its eyes.

Nous nous frottons les yeux. | We rub our eyes.

Vous vous frottez les yeux. | You rub your eyes.

Ils se frottent les yeux.| They (m. pl.) rub their eyes.

Elles se frottent les yeux.| They (f. pl.) rub their eyes.

Les chats se frottent les yeux.| The cats rub their eyes.


Future | Le futur

Je me brosserai les dents.| I will brush my teeth.

Tu te brosseras les dents.| You will brush your teeth.

Il se brossera les dents.| He will brush his teeth.

Elle se brossera les dents.| She will brush her teeth.

On se brossera les dents.| We will brush our teeth.

L’enfant se brossera les dents.| The child will brush his/her teeth.

Nous nous brosserons les dents.| We will brush our teeth.

Vous vous brosserez les dents.| You will brush your teeth.

Ils se brosseront les dents.| They (m. pl.) will brush their teeth.

Elles se brosseront les dents.| They (f. pl.) will brush their teeth.

Les jeunes se brosseront les dents.| The young people will brush their teeth.


Imperfect | L’imparfait

Je m’écrivais une petite note.| I was writing myself a memo.

Tu t’écrivais une petite note.| You were writing yourself a memo.

Il s’écrivait une petite note.| He was writing himself a memo.

Elle s’écrivait une petite note.| She was writing herself a memo.

On s’écrivait une petite note.| We were writing ourselves a memo.

L’élève s’écrivait une petite note.| The student was writing himself/herself a memo.

Nous nous écrivions une petite note.| We were writing ourselves a memo.

Vous vous écriviez une petite note.| You were writing yourselves a memo.

Ils s’écrivaient une petite note.| They (m. pl.) were writing themselves a memo.

Elles s’écrivaient une petite note.| They (f. pl.) were writing themselves a memo.

Les élèves s’écrivaient une petite note. | The students were writing themselves a memo.


To form the past tense | le passé composé (or other compound tenses) of reflexive verbs change the reflexive pronoun se to agree with the subject of the verb and always use être as the auxiliary verb then add the past participle.

The past participle of a reflexive verb agrees in gender and number with the direct object (asking: who| qui for a person or what| quoi for an object, after the verb) if it is placed in front of the verb. In most cases, the reflexive pronoun is a direct object.

The past participle of a reflexive verb does not agree if the direct object (asking: who| qui or what| quoi after the verb) is placed after the verb.

Past tense | Le passé composé

* Note: Certain personal pronouns have been assigned a gender for the purpose of agreement.


Je me suis lavée.(*Je = f.) | I washed myself.

J’ai lavé QUI ? me = je = direct object placed before the verb the past participle agrees (f. s.)


Je me suis lavé les mains. (*Je = f.) | I washed my hands.

J’ai lavé QUOI ? les mains = direct object placed after the verb the past participle does not agree

me = indirect object (whose hands | les mains à qui ?)


Pierrette s’est frappée. | Pierrette hit herself.

Pierrette a frappéQUI ? s’ = Pierrette = direct object placed before the verb the past participle agrees (f. s.)


Pierrette s’est frappé la cheville. | Pierrette hit her ankle.

Pierrette a frappéQUOI ? la cheville = direct object placed after the verb the past participle does not agree

s’ = indirect object (whose ankle | la cheville à qui ?)


Nous nous sommes promenés dans la forêt.(*Nous = m.) | We took (ourselves for) a walk in the forest.

Nous avons promené QUI? nous = nous/nous-mêmes = direct object the past participle agrees [m. pl.]


Nous nous sommes brossé les dents.| We brushed our teeth.

Nous avons brossé QUOI ? les dents = direct object placed after the verb does not agree

nous = indirect object (whose teeth | les dents à qui ?)



Ils se sont salis dans le grenier.| They (m. pl.) dirtied themselves in the attic.

Ils ont salis QUI? se = ils/ eux-mêmes = subject the past participle agrees [m. pl.]


Les élèves se sont écrit une petite note. | The students wrote themselves a memo.

Les élèves ont écrit QUOI ? une petite note = direct object placed after the verb does not agree

se = indirect object (wrote to whom | écrit à qui ?)



When conjugating reflexive verbs in the imperitive | l’impératif the reflexive pronoun is placed after the verb and is preceded by a hyphen. The reflexive pronoun se changes to a personal pronoun (myself/me/ | moi; you/yourself | toi; you/yourself |nous; you/yourselves | vous) depending on the context.

Imperative | L’impératif

Lave-toi! | Wash yourself!

Écoutons-nous! | Let’s listen to us!

Changez-vous! | Change yourselves!

Coiffe-moi!| Do my hair!


The Negative Sentence| La phrase négative

In French, a negative sentence is typically created by adding two negation words (such as ne + pas).

To form a negative sentence with a reflexive verb in the present tense, the negation word:

  • ne (or n’) is placed in front of the reflexive pronoun and

  • pas is placed after the verb.


Vous ne vous lavez pas les mains. | You do not wash your hands.

Les jeunes ne se brosseront pas les dents.| The young people will not brush their teeth.

Elle ne s’écrivait pas une petite note.| She was not writing herself a memo.


To form a negative sentence with a reflexive verb in the past tense (or other compound verbs) the negation word:

  • ne (or n’) is placed in front of the reflexive pronoun and

  • pas is placed between the auxiliary and the past participle.


Pierre-Oh ne s’est pas baigné.| Pierre-Oh did not bathe (himself).

La chemise ne s’était pas déboutonnée.| The shirt had not unbuttoned itself.

Les oiseaux ne se sont pas réveillés tôt.| The birds did not wake (themselves) up early.