Pronominals (Reflexives)

Pronominals (Reflexives)

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.
I look at myself in the mirror.

Soudain, le moto s'arrête.
Suddenly, the motorcycle stops.

Les grecs s'habillaient avec des tuniques. Mais ils faisaient du sport complètement nus.
  Singular Plural
1st person me nous
2nd person te vous
3rd person se se
*me, te, and se become m' , t' and s' before vowels and mute h (See Elision in the pronunciation guide).
  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 médecin a rasé mes cheveux avant d'effectuer la lobotomie.
The doctor shaved my hair before performing 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:

s'arrêter to stop oneself se lever to get up
se blesser to hurt oneself se peigner to comb one's hair
se brosser to brush oneself se raser to shave oneself
se coucher to go to bed se reposer to rest
se demander to wonder se réveiller to wake up
s'habiller to get dressed se trouver to be located
se laver to wash oneself se taire to be quiet

Gustave se trouve loin d'ici.
Gustave is far from here.

Je me suis réveillé à cause d'un 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.

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