When the subject does something to itself (when the subject and the object of the verb are the same) you have reflexivity. The reflexive pronouns are used to denote this.
Je me regarde dans le miroir, horrifié.
Soudain, le moto s'arrête.
|The Greeks dressed themselves with tunics. But they played sports completely naked.|
If the verb is followed by an object, if the object is a part of the subject, the reflexive pronouns are normally used.
Il se rase la barbe.
He shaves his beard off.
Almost always, verbs that are used reflexively can also be used non-reflexively.
|Le medecin a rasé mes cheveux avant d'effectuer
The doctor shaved my hair before the lobotomy.
|Elle se lave.||Elle lave le bébé.|
|She wahes herself.||She washes the baby.|
Following are some verbs that are commonly used reflexively:
Gustave se trouve loin d'ici.
Gustave is far from here.
Je me suis réveillé à cause d'une cauchemar.*
I woke up because of a nightmare.
Reflexive pronouns are also used to express reciprocal exchanges:
Ils se parlent toute la nuit.
They talk with each other all night long.
Les morses mâles se battent parfois à mort pendant la saison d'accouplement.
Male walruses sometimes fight to the death during mating season.
A participant in a reciprocal exchange is often expressed as an object. In this case, a reflexive pronoun is still used.
Je me bats avec le subjunctif.
I struggle with the subjunctive. Literally- I fight with the subjunctive.
*In the passé composé tense, a verb with a reflexive pronoun takes the auxiliary être, and the associated participle must agree with the subject.