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False reflexives – Riflessivi impropri I: Italian grammar lesson 153

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To practice this grammar topic, take Lesson 153 of Ripeti Con Me!

Table of Contents

False reflexives: Introduction

In the previous lesson, we learned about reflexive verbs, which are verbs that reflect their action back onto the subject who is performing it (Mi lavo –I wash myself, mi vesto – I dress myself, etc.). Sometimes, though, we encounter what we can call riflessivi impropri, which are basically false reflexives. These are verbs that look like reflexives (they use mi, ti, si, ci, vi), but are not! There are 3 types of riflessivi impropri:

  • la forma riflessiva apparente;
  • la forma riflessiva reciproca;
  • la forma pronominale.

In this lesson, we’ll look at the first ones, la forma riflessiva apparente (apparent reflexives.)

reflexives Italian

Riflessivi apparenti: Explained

These are verbs in which the pronominal particles (mi, ti, si, ci, vi) are not used as a direct object, but they represent an indirect object. If in reflexive verbs these particles mean “oneself”, here they mean “to oneself”.

  • Le ragazze si pettinano i capelli. = Le ragazze pettinano i capelli a sé stesse
    Girls brush their hair. Lit. Girls brush hair “to themselves”.

In this case the subject (le ragazze) is performing an action (si pettinano) on an direct object (i capelli), with si meaning “to temselves”, referred to le ragazze.

comprarsi italian

Riflessivi apparenti: Rules

These verbs behave exactly as reflexive verbs. The only difference is in the grammatical function of the pronominal particles (mi, ti, si, ci, vi). Let’s look at the conjugation of some riflessivi apparenti. These are always followed by an object, as you will see in the examples below. 

(to buy)
(to brush)
(to put on)
io mi compro mi pettino mi metto
tu ti compri ti pettini ti metti
lui, lei, Lei si compra si pettina si mette
noi ci compriamo ci pettiniamo ci mettiamo
voi vi comprate vi pettinate vi mettete
loro, Loro si comprano si pettinano si mettono


Passato Prossimo
(to buy)
(to brush)
(to put on)
io  mi sono comprato/a mi sono pettinato/a mi sono messo/a
tu ti sei comprato /a ti sei pettinato/a ti sei messo/a
lui, lei, Lei  si è comprato /a si è pettinato/a si è messo/a
noi  ci siamo comprati /e ci siamo pettinati/e ci siamo messi/e
voi  vi siete comprati /e vi siete pettinati/e vi siete messi/e
loro, Loro si sono comprati /e si sono pettinati/e si sono messi/e

oneself Italian

Riflessivi apparenti: Examples

Here are some more examples:

  • Ieri ci siamo comprati una moto!
    Yesterday we bought –to ourselves- a motorbike!
  • Oggi non mi sono pettinata i capelli.
    Today I did not brush my hair.
  • Per uscire Giorgia si è messa un vestito.
    To go out Giorgia put on a dress.


To practice this grammar topic, take Lesson 153 of Ripeti Con Me!

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