I verbi riflessivi

I have decided to try something new. I figured every new concept I learn in Italian I will post it here. This will help to both renew my learning, and hopefully it may help you a bit too. I am only learning Italian, so please do your own reading around the subject as well. And if I have made some mistakes please feel free to correct me.

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Reflexive verbs? Easy, peasy… Or not?

I struggled with reflexive verbs a little bit, until I actually actively went and learned the rules about them. Then I realised, ‘Oh this is actually really simple’. I was sat there with my grammar book, my ipad, my notebook and was expecting to be studying i verbi riflessivi all the day. I opened up google, typed in reflexive verbs in Italian, read a couple of web pages. Opened my grammar book and headed to the reflexive verb section. And within 10 – 15 minutes I was texting my partner, explaining it to him and he said ‘Yes, that is correct’.

What is a reflexive verb?

Reflexive verbs in Italian are verbs that are followed by si in their infinitive forms. The meaning of the word si is basically ‘oneself’. The subject and the direct object are the same, so, the action carried out is something that is being done to ‘oneself’.

Examples of reflexive verbs:

  • Svegliarsi – to wake up
  • Lavarsi – to wash
  • Addormentarsi – to fall asleep
  • Farsi il bagno – to take a bath
  • Divertirsi – to enjoy (oneself)
  • Chiamarsi – to call (oneself)
  • Pettinarsi – to comb (oneself)
  • Sedersi – to sit down
  • Sentirsi – to feel
  • Alzarsi – to get up
  • Spogliarsi – to undress
  • Innamorarsi – to fall in love

Reflexive verbs are often proceeded by a reflexive noun when conjugated.

This is an example with the reflexive Lavarsi in the present tense.

Personal Pronoun

Io

Tu

Lui/lei/Lei

Noi

Voi

Loro

Reflexive Pronoun

mi

ti

si

ci

vi

si

Verb

lavo

lavi

lava

laviamo

lavate

lavano

So how do we use these in sentences?

In the present tense, most reflexive verbs follow the exact same conjugation patterns as their -are, -ire, and -ere forms do. The only difference is the addition of the reflexive pronoun.

Examples:

  • Mi lavo
  • Ti vesti
  • Si sveglia
  • Ci mangiamo
  • I cani si divertono.

The placement of the reflexive pronoun is dependent on a couple of different things. Most of the time, as stated, it will go in front of the verb, as in the example above. However, in some cases it can attach to the end of the verb. This is the case with using the infinitive or an imperative. So if your telling someone to wake up you could say svegliati! Or if you are telling someone not to worry you could say non preoccuparti. Another case when you can use the reflexive pronoun after the verb is when the verb follows another verb such as volere, dovere or potere. For example: Devi alzarti (You must get up).

Using reflexive verbs in the past tense is also fairly simple. Reflexive verbs are conjugated with the auxiliary essere and this auxiliary goes after the reflexive pronoun. As well as this, these past participles have to agree with both the gender and number of the subject.

We will use some examples in the passato prossimo:

Mi sono alzato/a

Ti sei messo/a

Si è fermato/a

Ci siamo incontrati/e

Vi siete divertiti/e

Si sono sentiti/e

These conjugation rules work with all compound tenses, this means that they will work with trapassato prossimo, futuro anteriore and condizionale passato as well.

For other tenses that are not compound tenses (such as imperfetto, futuro semplice and condizionale presente) you just add the reflexive pronoun before the verb and conjugate as you would do normally.

An example of this in the futuro semplice using the verb vestirsi.

Mi vestirò

Ti vestirai

Si vestirà

Ci vestiremo

Vi vestirete

Si vestiranno