Reflexive Pronouns

French reflexive pronouns
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Pronoms réfléchis

Reflexive pronouns reiterate the subject, which may seem redundant, but in fact serves an important purpose: it indicates that the subject of the verb is performing that action on itself. In contrast, direct and indirect object pronouns indicate that the subject is performing the action on someone or something else.

Par exemple…

Je me lève à 8h. I get [myself] up at 8am.
Nous nous connaissons. We know each other.

Characteristics of reflexive pronouns

  1. Are required with pronominal verbs
  2. Are only used with pronominal verbs
  3. Must agree with the subject in number and gender
  4. May be direct or indirect objects

French reflexive pronouns

me (m’, moi) me, myself   nous us, ourselves
te (t’, toi) you, yourself   vous you, yourself, yourselves
se (s’) him(self), her(self), it(self)   se (s’) them, themselves

+ The first and second person singular pronouns have three forms each:

  1. Normal forms: me and te
  2. Contracted forms: m’ and t’, for use in front of a vowel or h muet
  3. Stressed forms: moi and toi, for use in a particular imperative construction

+ The third person singular and plural pronoun has two forms:

  1. Normal form: se
  2. Contracted form: s’, for use in front of a vowel or h muet

+ The first and second person plural direct object pronouns have just one form each.

  In regard to reflexive pronouns, there’s no distinction between "himself," "herself," "itself," and "themselves" in French: use se for all of them.

Reflexive pronouns are used only with pronominal verbs. Grammatically, they may be direct objects or indirect objects, depending on the verb and the sentence structure they are used in.

  Reflexive pronouns vs Object pronouns

Ils se voient.   They see each other. reflexive pronoun
Ils le voient.   They see it. direct object pronoun
Elles se parlent.   They’re talking to each other. reflexive pronoun
Elles leur parlent.   They’re talking to them. indirect object pronoun

Word order

Like object pronouns, reflexive pronouns directly precede the verb.

Par exemple…

Je me lève tôt.   I get up early.
Vous vous voyez.   You see each other.
Nous nous sommes endormis.   We fell asleep.

Agreement

Reflexive pronouns always have to agree with their subjects, with every tense, mood, and verb form.

Par exemple…

Future Je me lèverai tôt.   I will get up early.
Infinitive Vous allez vous voir.   You’re going to see each other.
Present participle En nous endormons, nous…   While falling asleep, we…

 Related lessons

French lesson plans French lesson plan

Learn Spanish En español

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French reflexive pronouns
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