Reflexive Verbs

Verbes pronominaux réfléchis

Elle se regarde - French reflexive verb
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For reflexive verbs, the reflexive pronoun indicates that the subject of the verb is performing the action on him/her/itself, rather than on someone or something else. The majority of reflexive verbs have to do with one’s body, clothing, relationships, or one’s state of mind.

Par exemple…

Elle se regarde et se sourit.   She’s looking at herself and smiling at herself.
Je me couche à minuit.   I go to bed at midnight.
Tu t’habilles trop lentement.   You’re dressing too slowly.

Most common French reflexive verbs

s’adjoindre to take on, appoint
s’adresser à to address, speak to
s’approcher de to approach
s’arrêter to stop oneself
s’asseoir to sit down
se baigner to bathe, swim
se brosser (les cheveux, les dents) to brush (one’s hair, one’s teeth)
se casser (la jambe, le bras) to break (one’s leg, one’s arm)
se coiffer to fix one’s hair
se coucher to go to bed
se couper to cut oneself, to cut (something) for oneself
se dépêcher to hurry
se déshabiller to get undressed
se disperser to disperse, break up (a meeting, group)
se doucher to take a shower
s’effrayer to be frightened
s’éloigner to move (oneself) away
s’endormir to fall asleep
s’énerver to get annoyed
s’enrhumer to catch a cold
se fâcher to get angry
se faire (un café, un sandwich…) to make (a coffee, sandwich…) for oneself
se fatiguer to get tired
se fier to trust
s’habiller to get dressed
s’habituer à to get used to
s’imaginer to imagine
s’informer to ask, find out; to inform oneself
s’inquiéter to worry
s’inscrire to enroll, register
s’intéresser à to be interested in
se laver (les mains, la figure) to wash oneself (one’s hands, one’s face)
se lever to get up
se maquiller to put on makeup
se marier (avec) to get married (to)
se moucher to blow one’s nose
se noyer to drown
se nuire to harm oneself
se peigner to comb one’s hair
se précipiter to rush, quicken; to hurl oneself, jump
se promener to take a walk
se raser to shave
se rassembler to gather, assemble (as a group)
se refroidir to cool down, get cold
se regarder to look at oneself
se relaxer to relax
se reposer to rest
se réserver to keep for oneself
se réveiller to wake up
se soûler to get drunk
se sourire to smile at/to oneself
se suffire to be self-sufficient
se suicider to commit suicide
se taire to be quiet

  Note that many of these verbs can also be reciprocal.

All of the above verbs require a reflexive pronoun when they indicate that the subject is doing something to itself. But they can also be used non-reflexively, indicating that the action of the verb is directed at someone or something else.

  En comparaison…

Je me réveille à 6h00. vs Je la réveille à 6h00.
I wake up at 6am.
 
  I wake her up at 6am.
 
Il se rase le menton. vs Il rase le menton de son fils.
He’s shaving his (own) chin.   He’s shaving his son’s chin.

  When talking about parts of the body, the reflexive pronoun and a definite article indicate the owner of that part of the body, rather than the possessive adjective that is used in English.

Je me lave le visage.   Je lave mon visage.
I’m washing my face.
 
   
Il se brosse les cheveux.   Il brosse ses cheveux.
He’s brushing his hair.    

 Reflexive verbs are just one type of pronominal verb. See the main lesson on pronominal verbs for details on using reflexive verbs in different tenses and moods.

 Related lessons

French lesson plans French lesson plan

Learn Spanish En español

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French reflexive verbs
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2 Responses

  1. lkl 2 November 2014 / 6:05

    It doesn’t mean “to approach oneself,” but rather “to approach someone/something else.” It’s reflexive because the subject is the one doing the moving, as opposed to the non-reflexive approcher, which means “to put/move something else nearer.”

  2. SpenceB 1 November 2014 / 21:05

    In s’approcher de, how does one approach oneself?