Reflexive Verbs in Italian: what are they and how to use them?

Reflexive verbs are extremely important and common in Italian. Do you know what they are and how to use them? If you don't, then you're in the right place!




What’s a reflexive verb? Think of it as a mirror. If you look at yourself in the mirror, what are you going to see? Yourself, right? A mirror reflects the image and a reflexive verb does the same thing!


A reflexive verb is used when the subject of the action (the person doing the action) is the same as the object of the action.


Most of the time when we talk about reflexive verbs we need to say that the subject of the action is the same as the subject.


Sometimes, it’s very obvious. The verb “lavarsi” means to "wash oneself". Of course, if you’re showering, you’re washing yourself. So that makes sense.


With some reflexive verbs, though, it’s less obvious. For example, take the verb “sentire” which normally means to hear. However, when we make it reflexive and we say “sentirsi”, then it means “to feel”, for example "mi sento bene" (I feel good).


Although many reflexive verbs make sense by adding “myself” or “oneself” in general in English, sometimes it doesn’t work.


Sometimes, by making a verb reflexive, we’re just changing the meaning of the verb.


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1. How do you conjugate a reflexive verb?


A reflexive verb will always end in -si in the infinitive. Therefore, we will get rid of the -si and conjugate the verb as we would normally do in the present (or any other tense). For example:

  • Lavarsi lavar(e) → conjugate this as an -are verb (lavo, lavi, lava, laviamo, lavate, lavano)

  • Mettersi metter(e) conjugate this as an -ere verb

  • Vestirsivestir(e) → conjugate this as an -ire verb


Once we have conjugated the verb we need to add the reflexive pronouns.



2. Reflexive pronouns


Reflexive pronouns are placed before the verb in the present, past, or future tense and are there to remind you that a specific verb is reflexive. These are the reflexive pronouns that you will need to use for each personal pronoun (subject):


Mi (io)

Ti (tu)

Si (lui/lei)

Ci (noi)

Vi (voi)

Si (loro)


Let’s conjugate the verb lavarsi:


Io mi lavo

Tu ti lavi

Lui/lei si lava

Noi ci laviamo

Voi vi lavate

Loro si lavano


Now let’s conjugate mettersi (to put on):


Io mi metto

Tu ti metti

Lui/lei si mette

Noi ci mettiamo

Voi vi mettete

Loro si mettono





3. Some examples

  1. Svegliarsi: to wake up (or to wake yourself up) → Mi sveglio tutti i giorni alle 7:00 di mattina (I wake up every day at 7:00 in the morning)

  2. Vestirsi: to get dressed (or to dress yourself) → Mi vesto in fretta perché sono in ritardo (I get dressed quickly because I am late)

  3. Chiamarsi: to be called → Mi chiamo Stefano (I am called Stefano, my name is Stefano)

  4. Sentirsi: to feel (sentire to hear, sentirsi to feel) → Ti senti bene? (Do you feel good/well, are you all right?)

  5. Divertirsi: to have fun → Ci divertiamo alla festa di Giorgia (We have fun at Giorgia's party)


I hope this article helped and if you have any questions, send me an email in the contact section of my website.


Un abbraccio,


Stefano


Do you want to take your Italian to the next level? Check out my Online Italian course for beginners "Be Italiano" and start learning today to become a real Italiano, like me!
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