The Reflexive Verbs (se laver, se brosser…)

Reflexive pronouns are pronouns used with reflexive verbs. Do you remember? “se laver, se réveiller…”

Reflexive verbs describe what a person does for him/herself, meaning that it reflects the action of the verb back on the subject (the subject and the object are the same). The structure is always the same for all reflexive verbs, as you can see below.

Les pronoms réfléchis

Tu tulaves

Reflexive verbs mainly have to do with parts of the body, clothing, personal circumstance or location.

Some example:

  • Je me rappelle de mon rêve : I remember my dream >
  • Je me brosse les dents : I brush my teeth >
  • J’oublie souvent les choses : I often forget things >
  • Il se couche tard le soir : He stays up late at night
  • Nous nous faisons du soucis : We are concerned

Tips: There are some verbs that have one meaning when they are not reflexive and another when they are. Some examples:
demander – to ask / if demander – to wonder
mettre – to put / se mettre à – to start doing something
passer – to pass / if passer – to happen

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Illustration – listen carefully

Listen to this clip, change the speed if you want

“Je suis Français mais je me lave tous les jours, avant de me brosser les dents avec de la musique brésilienne.”

“I am French, but I wash every day, before brushing my teeth, with Brazilian music.”

La négation avec les verbes pronominaux

One mistake we see regularly (especially from English speakers) is the placement of the negation “ne” and “pas” with pronominal verbs.

La règle est simple :


Par exemple :

  • Je ne m’appelle pas Mathieu mais Jacques.
  • Tu ne te laves pas le soir ?
  • Nous ne nous sommes jamais vu.

Remember that “jamais”, “plus”, “rien”… can take the place of “pas”.

As with many things in French, the easiest way to remember this grammar is to practice writing and doing exercises.

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