A Complete Guide To French Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs are very common in the French language. So many daily used verbs in French are reflexive and it can be daunting for non-French natives. 

But don’t worry! In 5 minutes, after reading this post, you will know exactly how to recognise, use, conjugate, and understand French reflexive verbs!

🇫🇷 **This is part of the French Grammar Crash Course which will put together all the basics of French grammar.**

What is a Reflexive Verb? 

To put it simply, French reflexive verbs are those verbs with the little pronoun “se” in front of them. 

In other words, reflexive verbs are verbs that indicate an action carried out by the subject on themselves. In English, we often use reflexive pronouns such as “myself,” “yourself,” or “ourselves” to convey similar meanings. 

In French, these reflexive verbs are formed by adding the reflexive pronouns “me,” “te,” “se,” “nous,” “vous,” or “se” before the verb.

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What French Verbs are Reflexive?

The list is long… very long. 

However, usually, reflexive verbs indicate one of these things:

  1. Daily routines and personal care Reflexive verbs are commonly used when describing activities related to personal care, grooming, or daily routines. 

Se laver: to wash oneself

Se réveiller: to wake up

Se brosser les dents: to brush one’s teeth

Se lever: to get up

Se coucher: to go to bed/to lie down

S’endormir: to fall asleep

Se doucher: to take a shower

Se maquiller: to put makeup on

Se raser: to shave

    1. Emotions and states of being: Reflexive verbs can also express emotions or states of being. 

Se sentir: to feel

Se fâcher: to get angry

Se reposer: to rest

S’amuser: to have fun

S’ennuyer: to feel bored

Se brosser les cheveux: to brush one’s hair

    1. Reciprocal actions: Reflexive verbs are used to indicate reciprocal actions between two or more people. 

Se parler: to talk to each other

Se rencontrer: to meet each other

Se comprendre: to understand each other

Se connaître: to meet, to know each other

S’embrasser: to kiss each other

Se téléphoner: to call each other

    1. Other actions done to oneself

Se demander: to wonder (literally: to ask oneself)

Se placer: to place oneself, to position oneself

S’appeler: to be called

Se cacher: to hide

Se taire: to stop talking

Se perdre: to get lost

There are of course many more, but this is a list to help you get started.

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How to conjugate reflexive verbs? 

Conjugating reflexive verbs requires adding the appropriate reflexive pronoun in front of the verb and then conjugating the verb itself. The reflexive pronoun used depends on the subject and the verb tense.

je me
tu te
Il / elle / on se
nous nous
vous vous
Ils / elles se

Je me lave 
I wash myself

Tu te réveilles 
You wake up

On se brosse les dents 
One brushes one's teeth

Nous nous reposons 
We rest

Vous vous sentez bien 
You feel well

Elles se parlent 
They talk to each other

French Reflexive Verbs in Passé Composé

Teacher tip: In composed tenses, aka those that need an auxiliary (passé composé, plus-que-parfait, conditionnel passé, etc.) reflexive verbs are always conjugated with être. This means the participe passé will accord with the subject. 

Je me suis demandée quand tu allais arriver.
I wondered when you would arrive.

The e at the end of demandée indicates that a woman is speaking. However, this is only noticeable in writing, as the pronunciation doesn’t change. 

Negative Sentences with Reflexive Verbs

To form a negative sentence with verbes réfléchis, it works just like the other verbs.

S + ne + V + pas + O

Je ne me lève pas avant 8 heures.
I don’t wake up before 8 o’clock.

In composed tenses, pas goes between the auxiliary and the participe passé. 

Tu ne t’es pas encore lavé? 
You haven’t washed yet?


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Common reflexive verb patterns

While many reflexive verbs are formed by simply adding the reflexive pronoun before the verb, some verbs have specific patterns. These patterns may include prepositions or changes in the meaning of the verb. Some common patterns are:

    • Verbs followed by prepositions: “s’intéresser à” (to be interested in), “se souvenir de” (to remember), or “se plaindre de” (to complain about).

    • Reflexive verbs with infinitives: “se mettre à” (to start), “se décider à” (to decide), or “se mettre à” (to begin).

    • Reflexive verbs with reciprocal meaning: “se rencontrer” (to meet), “se saluer” (to greet), or “se quitter” (to leave each other).


French reflexive verbs may initially seem confusing, but with practice and understanding, they can become second nature. Remember to pay attention to context and use the appropriate reflexive pronouns for different subjects and verb tenses. By incorporating reflexive verbs into your language learning journey, you will gain a deeper understanding of the French language.


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