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Reflexive verbs are used for actions that you to do yourself. An example in English would be something like ‘I shower myself’ or ‘I am shaving myself’. You can think of it like this: the verb is reflexive because it reflects back on yourself.
In French, you can spot a reflexive when you see ‘se’ in front of the verb. So ‘se brosser les dents’ (to brush one’s teeth) or ‘se laver’ (to wash oneself) are both reflexive verbs, for instance.
You may be now wondering how to form these verbs, and the process is fairly straightforward. You conjugate the verb as you usually would, and then add the relevant reflexive pronoun. Remember that this pronoun goes directly before the verb when we’re in the present tense. The reflexive pronouns are as follows.
So here’s how would we would conjugate ‘se baigner’ (to bathe oneself) for example.
Je me baigne
Tu te baignes
Il/elle se baigne
Nous nous baignons
Vous vous baignez
Ils/elles se baignent
So, what we’ve learned so far is that reflexive verbs are used for actions that you do to yourself. When forming a reflexive verb, you need to put the relevant reflexive pronoun before the verb. So far so good. But there’s one very important thing to know about reflexive verbs. In the past tense, you must form them with the auxiliary ‘être’, rather than ‘avoir’.
Given that we are using être, it is also very important that we agree the verb where necessary.
Here’s what ‘se lever’ (to get up’) would look like in the past.
Je me suis levé
Tu t’es levé
Il s’est levé/ elle s’est levée
Nous nous sommes levés
Vous vous êtes levés
Ils se sont levés/elles se sont levées.
So remember, for instance, that if I am female and I am talking about myself, I would say ‘je me suis levée’. Equally, I am want to use ‘nous’ to refer to a group of girls, I would have to say ‘nous nous sommes levées’see more