Reflexive Verbs with Reciprocal Meaning

In the plural, reflexive verbs may convey a reciprocal meaning equivalent to “each other” in English.

  • Vous vous contactez souvent ?
  • Do you contact each other often?
  • Oui, nous nous téléphonons toutes les semaines.
  • Yes, we phone each other every week.
  • Le chef et les employés vont se parler aujourd’hui ?
  • Are the boss and the employees going to talk to each other today?
  • Oui, ils se sont donné rendez-vous à 14h00.
  • Yes, they have made an appointment (to see each other) at 2 o’clock.

In my last example, ils se sont donné rendez-vous there is no agreement of the past participle because the reflexive pronoun se is an indirect object. To determine whether or not the past participle agrees with passé composé, determine if the non-reflexive verb takes a direct or an indirect object. In this case, donner takes an indirect object of the person (donner quelque chose à quelqu’un), so se is an indirect object.

More examples:

  • voir quelqu’un – ils se sont vus.
    • Quelqu’un is a direct object; the past participle agrees with the preceding direct object se.
  • écrire à quelqu’un – ils se sont écrit.
    • Quelqu’un is an indirect object; there is no agreement of the past participle because se is an indirect object.

In the colloquial style where on replaces nouson se may have a reciprocal (“each other”) meaning:

  • On s’aime beaucoup.
  • We love each other very much.
  • On ne se ment pas.
  • We don’t lie to each other.

Below is a list of some reciprocal verbs. Note that anything marked with an asterisk * indicates that the reflexive pronoun is an indirect object.

  • *s’acheter des cadeaux – to buy gifts for each other
  • s’aider – to help each other
  • s’aimer – to love each other
  • se comprendre – to understand each other
  • se connaître – to know each other
  • se détester – to hate each other
  • *se donner rendez-vous – to make an appointment to see each other
  • *s’écrire – to write to each other
  • s’entraider – to help each other
  • *s’envoyer des courriels – to send each other emails
  • *se faire mal – to hurt each other
  • *se mentir – to lie to each other
  • *se parler – to speak to each other
  • *se poser des questions – to ask each other questions
  • se pousser – to push each other
  • se regarder – to look at each other
  • se rencontrer – to meet/run into each other
  • *se ressembler – to look alike
  • se retrouver – to meet (by appointment)
  • *se téléphoner – to phone each other
  • se voir – to see each other

Merci à vous ! A la prochaine…


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