Reflexive Verbs in the past in Italian

Reflexive verbs can be kind of tricky, however, do you know how to use them in the past? We are going to learn just this in today's video!



You probably know how reflexive verbs work and if you don't, feel free to read this article that I wrote some time ago. In today's video, we are going to talk about reflexive verbs in the past.


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1. Quick recap of reflexive verbs in Italian


Reflexive verbs are used when the action is performed by the subject on themselves or they are used to change the meaning of a verb. For example, "lavarsi" means "washing onself". But when you use the verb "sentirsi" you are just changing the meaning of the verb from sentire (to hear) to sentirsi (to feel).


To form reflexive verbs you need to use a reflexive pronoun before the verb (mi lavo, ti lavi, si lava...)



2. Reflexive verbs in the past


To form the past with reflexive verbs you have two options: either imperfetto or passato prossimo. Imperfetto is very easy: mi divertivo.


With passato prossimo, remember that reflexive verbs always take essere as auxiliary verb, all the time, no exception! For this reason, you'll need to change the past participle according to the subject you have. For example, let's conjugate the verb divertirsi (to have fun) in passato prossimo:

Io mi sono divertito/a Tu ti sei divertito/a Lui si è divertito Lei si è divertita Noi ci siamo divertiti/e Voi vi siete divertiti/e Loro si sono divertiti/e


3. Reflexive verbs in the past with a modal verb


What about using a reflexive verb in the past with a modal verb? Remember that modal verbs are dovere, potere, and volere and they always take an infinitive.


For example, let's say you want to say something like "we had to wake up early this morning", here you have two options! You are going to use the modal verb "have to/must", dovere, in passato prossimo and the infinitive of the verb "to wake up", svegliarsi.


Since here you have an infinitive, you can place the reflexive pronoun either before the modal verb or attached to the infinitive of the verb "to wake up", svegliarsi.


If you put the pronoun before the modal verb all is normal:

  • Ci siamo dovuti svegliare (you use essere because dovere is being used with a verb taking essere and you change the past participle. Here it can be either dovuti or dovute). Don't forget to add back the -e at the infinitive svegliare.

If you put it after you have to change the auxiliary verb:

  • Abbiamo dovuto svegliarci: in this case you attach -ci at the end of svegliare by dropping the final -e and you use avere, therefore there is no need to change the past participle.

Both of them are correct, however, my advice is to use the one with essere. Other examples might be:

  • Mi sono potuto divertire dopo l'esame/Ho potuto divertirmi dopo l'esame (I could have fun after the exam)

  • Ti sei potuta riposare ieri?/Hai potuto riposarti ieri? (Could you rest yesterday?)


If you have any questions about this topic, don't hesitate to send me a message in the contact section of my website.


A presto,


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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