Lesson 15 – Reflexive Verbs

Leçon 15 – Reflexive Verbs

In French, reflexive verbs, or pronominal verbs (verbes pronominaux), always appear with the pronoun that refers to the person or thing as the subject. It’s not the same as in English, where these types of verbs usually imply that the subject is doing something to him/herself. (Example: I dress myself. The little boy hurt himself.)

Reflexive verbs are always listed in the infinitive with se or s’ in front of the infinitive:

  • se reveiller – to wake up
  • s’amuser – to have fun/a good time
  • se détendre – to relax
  • s’endormir – to fall asleep


Formation of Reflexive Verbs

se reveiller

je me réveille

tu te réveilles

il/elle/on se réveille

nous nous réveillons

vous vous réveillent


Reflexive and Non Reflexive Verb Pairs

French verbs are either transitive or intransitive. French transitive verbs must appear with a direct object, while French intransitive verbs cannot appear with a direct object. Most pronominal verbs have a transitive counterpart – a non reflexive verb that must have a direct object.

Examples of transitive verbs:

  • s’amuser quelqu’un – to amuse someone
  • approcher la chaise – to move the chair closer
  • ennuyer les enfants – to bore the children
  • habiller le bébé – to dress the baby
  • laver le parquet – to wash the floor
  • offenser quelqu’un – to offend someone
  • promener le chien – to walk the dog
  • réveiller les enfants – to wake up the children


Now here are examples of those same verbs but as reflexive verbs:

  • s’amuser – to have a good time
  • s’approcher – to approach/move closer
  • s’ennuyer – to get bored
  • s’habiller – to get dressedd
  • se laver – to wash up
  • s’offenser – to get insulted
  • se promener – to take a walk
  • se réveiller – to wake up


The best way to understand French reflexive verbs is to think of the reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nous, vous, se) as taking place of the required direct object (je, tu, il/elle/on, nous, vous, ils/elles) with the transitive verbs when there is no direct object present.

Reflexive verbs are common in expressing of one’s daily routine:

  • se coucher – to go to bed
  • se débarbouiller – to wash one’s face
  • se déshabiller – to get undressed
  • se détendre – to relax
  • s’endormir – to fall asleep
  • se fatiguer – to get tired
  • s’habiller – to get dressed
  • se laver – to wash up
  • se lever – to get up
  • se maquiller – to put on makeup
  • se peigner – to comb one’s hair
  • se raser – to shave
  • se reposer – to rest
  • se réveiller – to wake up
  • se soigner – to take care of oneself


Other expressions related to our daily routine use the reflexive verb followed by a direct object. In these expressions, the reflexive pronouns are indirect objects. This is most common with parts of the body:

  • se brosser les cheveux – to brush one’s hair
  • se brosser les dent – to brush one’s teeth
  • se casser le bras – to break one’s arm
  • se couper le doigt – to cut one’s finger
  • se couper les cheveux – to cut one’s hair
  • se couper/limer les ongles – to cut/file one’s nails
  • se laver les mains – to wash one’s hands
  • se laver la tête – to wash one’s hair
  • se sécher les cheveux – to dry one’s hair


Many verbs of motion follow the same pattern.

  • s’allonger – to stretch out, to lie down
  • s’approcher de – to approach, move closer
  • s’arrêter – to stop
  • s’asseoir – to sit down
  • se dépêcher – to hurry up
  • se déplacer – to move, move about, travel
  • se diriger ver – to head toward
  • s’éloigner de – to move away from
  • s’installer – to move in, settle in
  • se mettre debout – to stand up
  • se mettre en route – to set out
  • se promener – to take a walk
  • se réunir – to get together
  • se trouver – to be located


Passé Composé of Reflexive Verbs

All reflexive verbs are conjugated with être in the passé composé. In the passé composé of a reflexive verb, the past participle agrees with the reflexive pronoun, not the subject, if that pronoun is a direct object.


je me suis amusé(e)

tu t’es amusé(e)

il s’est amusé

elle s’est amusée

on s’est amusé/amusés/amusées

nous nous sommes amusé(e)s

vous vous êtes amusé(e)(s)

ils se sont amusés

elles se sont amusées


Please leave any comments you may have, I love hearing from you! Do you have any fun learning tools for these subjects? Like music, or poems, or videos? Please share if you do!


Merci à vous !



One thought on “Lesson 15 – Reflexive Verbs

  1. Pingback: Reflexive Verbs with Reciprocal Meaning | Learn French Avec Moi

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