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 awayto go
s’amuser to have a good timeto amuse
s’apercevoir to noticeto glimpse, perceive
s’appeler to be namedto call
s’approprier to appropriate, take overto suit, adapt to
s’attendre (à) to expectto wait for
se débrouiller to manage, get byto disentangle
se demander to wonderto ask
se dépêcher to hurryto send quickly
se dérouler to happen, take placeto unroll, unwind
se diriger vers to head towardto run, be in charge of
se douter to suspectto doubt
s’éclater to have a blast (informal)to blow up, explode
s’éclipser to slip away/outto eclipse, overshadow
s’ennuyer to be boredto bother
s’entendre to get alongto hear
se faire à to get used toto do, make
se figurer to imagine, pictureto represent, to appear
s’habituer à to get used toto 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 toto place, put
se passer to happento pass, go by
se perdre to get lostto lose
se plaindre to complainto pity, begrudge
s’y prendre to set about doing somethingto take
se refuser de to deny oneself (the opportunity)to refuse
se rendre à to go toto return
se rendre compte de  to realizeto account for
s’en retourner to journey backto return
se réunir to meet, get togetherto gather, collect
se saisir de to seize, to take up (an issue)to grab, take hold of
se servir de to use, make use ofto serve
se tromper to be mistakento deceive
se trouver to be locatedto 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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