16.2 Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns show that the subject of the activity refers this activity to itself. In easier words, somebody does something to or with him- or herself.

I enjoy myself.
You dry yourself.
He defends himself. etc.

The French have here a specialty: the reflexive pronouns are identical with the accusative / dative (or also direct / indirect) personal pronoun with only one exception - the third person in singular and plural.

Reflexive pronoun Accusative (direct) personal pronoun Dative (indirect) personal pronoun
me me me
te te te
se le / la lui
nous nous nous
vous vous vous
se les leur

Now, one could discuss about the difference between accusative (direct) personal pronoun, dative (indirect) personal pronoun and reflexive personal pronoun, if there is no difference. Well, the following example should help seeing the difference better.

He washes him. Il lui lave . someone else is referred to
He washes himself. Il se lave. he himself is referred to.

The difference really makes sense (and if only in the third person, we have less to remember on reflexive pronouns). Unfortunately, reflexive verbs in French are not necessarily the same as in English. Please find a (non-complete) list of some of the most important ones.


s'asseoir to sit down
se baigner to bathe, swim
se brosser (les cheveux, les dents)    to brush (one's hair, teeth)
se casser (la jambe) to break (one's leg)
se coucher to go to bed
se doucher to take a shower
se fâcher to get angry
se laver (les mains, la figure) to wash (one's hands, face)
se lever to get up
se marier (avec) to get married (to)
se moquer de to make fun of (someone else)
se raser to shave
se regarder to look at oneself
se reposer to rest
se réveiller to wake up
se souvenir de to remember

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