Idiomatic Pronominal Verbs

Verbes pronominaux subjectifs

Idiomatic pronominal French verbs
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Several dozen verbs require a reflexive pronoun but are neither reflexive nor reciprocal. These verbs use the reflexive pronoun to create a meaning different from (though often related to) the meaning of their non-pronominal siblings.

Par exemple…

Ils s’entendent bien.   They get along well.
Je me dépêche.   I’m hurrying.
Elle s’appelle Laurence.   Her name is Laurence.

Most common French idiomatic pronominal verbs*

Here are the most common verbes pronominaux subjectifs with their non-pronominal meanings.

    Non-pronominal meaning
s’en aller to go away to go
s’amuser to have a good time to amuse
s’apercevoir to notice to glimpse, perceive
s’appeler to be named to call
s’approprier to appropriate, take over to suit, adapt to
s’attendre (à) to expect to wait for
se débrouiller to manage, get by to disentangle
se demander to wonder to ask
se dépêcher to hurry to send quickly
se dérouler to happen, take place to unroll, unwind
se diriger vers to head toward to run, be in charge of
se douter to suspect to doubt
s’éclater to have a blast (informal) to blow up, explode
s’éclipser to slip away/out to eclipse, overshadow
s’ennuyer to be bored to bother
s’entendre to get along to hear
se faire à to get used to to do, make
se figurer to imagine, picture to represent, to appear
s’habituer à to get used to to get in the habit of
s’installer to settle in (to a home, job) to install
se joindre à to join (a group) to join, connect 2 things
se mettre à to begin to to place, put
se passer to happen to pass, go by
se perdre to get lost to lose
se plaindre to complain to pity, begrudge
s’y prendre to set about doing something to take
se refuser de to deny oneself (the opportunity) to refuse
se rendre à to go to to return
se rendre compte de to realize to account for
s’en retourner to journey back to return
se réunir to meet, get together to gather, collect
se saisir de to seize, to take up (an issue) to grab, take hold of
se servir de to use, make use of to serve
se tromper to be mistaken to deceive
se trouver to be located to find

 See the main lesson on pronominal verbs for details on using idiomatic pronominal verbs in different tenses and moods.

 * About the name: Le Bon Usage calls these verbes pronominaux subjectifs, which would seem to translate to "subjective verbs." However, in English, that term is synonymous with intransitive verbs, which are something else entirely. Therefore, I’ve chosen to call them idiomatic pronominal verbs. If you know the correct English name for them, please let me know.

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French idiomatic pronominal verbs

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