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REFLEXIVE VERBS USE AND CONJUGATION
Strickly speaking, the term reflexive verb ought to refer only to verbs whose direct or indirect object, expressed by one or other of the conjunctive personal pronouns me, te, se,nous or
vous, refers to the subject of the same verb; e.g. Jacques se lave.- James is washing (himself) or James is having a bath. Sophie se lave.- Sophia is washing (herself) or Sophia is having a bath.
However, in practice the term also covers reciprocal verbs, i.e. those expressing actions that the various individuals included in the subject do to one another;
E.g. Nous nous aimons.- We love one another. Ils sécrivent souvent.- They often write to each other.
Reflexive verbs are very common in French and often denote actions that people do to themselves, either deliberately or by accident.
A number of verbs are used only reflexively, and in some of these the reflexive pronoun se is virtually meaningless and untranslatable in English.
Among such verbs are: sabstenir- to abstain, refrain; saccroupir- to crouch; sempresser- to hasten, bustle; sévader- to escape; sévanouir- to faint;
se souvenir(de)- to remember; sasseoir-to sit down; se lever-to get up; se coucher- to go to bed; se laver- to wash or to have a bath;
se faire mal- to hurt oneself; sen aller-to go away; se réveiller-to wake up; se dépêcher- to hurry (up)
The reflexive pronoun se is part of the verb and can never be omitted. Many actions that are considered reflexive in French are not so in English.
se souvenir, se rappeler- to remember se passer- to happen
It is also important to note that many verbs are both reflexive and non reflexive, according to their meaning:
Example: Je réveille les enfants le matin.- I wake the children up in the morning. But: Je me réveille de très bonne heure.- I wake up very early.
Here is a list of some of the more common verbs of this kind: sentir-to smell of smthg. se sentir- to feel
trouver – to find se trouver- to be (situated) perdre-to lose se perdre-to get lost ennuyer-to annoy sennuyer-to be bored
passer- to go past,to spend (time) se passer- to happen demander- to ask se demander- to wonder
Conjugation of some reflexive verbs In their conjugation, the reflexive pronoun se changes according to the subject personal pronoun (first and second persons singular and plural) to:
me, te, nous, vous respectively. me, te and se become m, t and s respectively when they are placed before verbs beginning with a vowel.
sasseoir-to sit down Je massieds Tu tassieds Il/Elle sassied Nous nous asseyons Vous vous asseyez Ils/Elles sasseyent
Or Je massois Tu tassois Il/Elle sassoit Nous nous assoyons Vous vous assoyez Ils/Elles sassoient
se lever-to get up Je me lève Tu te lèves Il/Elle se lève Nous nous levons Vous vous levez Ils/Elles se lèvent
se sentir-to feel Je me sens Tu te sens Il/Elle se sent Nous nous sentons Vous vous sentez Ils/Elles se sentent
sen aller-to go away Je men vais-I am going away Tu ten vas – You are going away Il /Elle sen va – He/She is going away
Nous nous en allons- We are going away Vous vous en allez- You are going away Ils /Elles sen vont – They are going away
Se peigner- to comb ones hair Je me peigne-I comb my hair or I am combing my hair Tu te peignes- You comb your hair or You are combing your hair Il/Elle se peigne-He/She combs his/her hair
He/She is combing his/her hair Nous nous peignons-We comb our hair or We are combing our hair
Vous vous peignez- You comb your hair or You are combing your hair Ils/Elles se peignent –They comb their hair or They are combing their hair
Some reflexive verbs denoting actions people do to themselves deliberately or accidentally
Je me lave les mains- I wash my hands or I am washing my hands Elle se brosse les dents- She brushes her teeth or She is brushing her teeth
Il se casse la jambe quand il joue au football- He breaks his leg when he plays football.
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