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Reflexive Verbs in French


Reflexive verbs are verbs which either:

1.reflect the action back onto the subject

(e.g. I wash myself: Je me lave), or

2.have the sense of "each other"

(e.g. They love each other: Ils s'aiment)


Reflexive Verbs in the Present Tense

Reflexive verbs only differ from ordinary verbs in that they have an additional Reflexive Pronoun. These are as follows, given here with the verb se laver, to wash:


je me lave

nous nous lavons

tu te laves

vous vous lavez

il se lave

ils se lavent

elle se lave

elles se lavent

on se lave



Reflexive Verbs in the Infinitive

Another important difference is that when these verbs are used in the infinitive, although the verb itself is infinitive, the reflexive pronoun must still agree with its subject.  e.g.                  Je dois me raser avant de sortir.

                                                                                    Nous voulons nous réveiller à 6h30 demain.


Reflexive Verbs in the Perfect Tense

In the Perfect Tense, reflexive verbs take être as their auxiliary verb, and consequently the past participle needs to agree with the subject, as with other être verbs. Thus if the subject is feminine, we add an "e" to the past participle, and if the subject is plural, we add an "s". The following table shows the verb se réveiller in all its forms in the perfect tense. Letters in brackets may be needed, depending on the gender and the number of the subject.


Je me suis réveillé (e)

Nous nous sommes réveillé(e)s

Tu t'es réveillé (e)

Vous vous êtes réveillé (e) (s)

Il s'est réveillé

Ils se sont réveillés

Elle s'est réveillée

Elles se sont réveillées

On s'est réveillé



BUT: If the reflexive verb has a direct object, as in the examples below, the reflexive pronoun is the indirect object and therefore the past participle does not need to agree:      e.g.    Marie s'est blessé la jambe.  (la jambe is direct object)

                                                                           Mes frères se sont lavé les mains. (les mains is the direct object)


Other Tenses

In other tenses reflexive verbs follow the same patterns as above

        i.e.    As normal verbs in simple tenses, but with a reflexive pronoun.

                 As être verbs in compound tenses, with a reflexive pronoun and

agreement of the past participle.


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