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Frequently used reflexive verbs: Italian grammar lesson 62

Frequently used reflexive verbs: Explained

What are the reflexive verbs in Italian?

Reflexive verbs (verbi riflessivi) are verbs whose direct object is the same as its subject. This means that the action of the verb is both committed and received by the same person or thing.

They exist in English as well. For example, when we say “I hurt myself”, we use the verb “hurt” in his reflexive form, since the subject “I” and the direct object “myself” refer to the same person.

Common Italian reflexive verbs

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However, Italian reflexive verbs are much more common than in English! Many frequently used reflexive verbs are verbs that are used to describe our daily routine, for example:

  • Alzarsi – to get up
  • Vestirsi – to dress oneself
  • Svegliarsi – to wake up
  • Lavarsi – to wash up
  • Pettinarsi – to comb one’s hair
  • Addormentarsi – to fall asleep

The reflexive pronoun si

In the infinitive form, reflexive verbs end with “si”. That “si” is the reflexive pronoun, the part that means self/oneself. However, when used in a sentence, we need to conjugate the reflexive pronouns according to the subject.

We do this in English. In fact, we say “I enjoy myself”, “You enjoy yourself”, “She enjoys herself” and so on.

Frequently used reflexive verbs: Conjugation

Reflexive verbs are conjugated in the same way as other verbs, but they need a reflexive pronoun before the verb.

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Let’s look at one example, using the very frequently used verb “chiamarsi” that you have learned when you learned to introduce yourself in Italian (even though you probably did not know it was a reflexive verb!). Literally, “mi chiamo…” means “I call myself…”.

Subject Reflexive Pronoun Example
io mi mi chiamo
tu ti ti chiami
lui / lei si si chiama
noi ci ci chiamiamo
voi vi vi chiamate
loro si si chiamano

Learn more about Italian verb conjugation.

Reflexive verbs: Rules

One important rule about reflexive verbs, is that when we use complex tenses (tenses for which the verb is made up by more than one word, for example passato prossimo), we always must use the auxiliary verb “essere” and not “avere”.

For example:

  • Ieri mi sono svegliato alle otto.
    Yesterday I woke up at eight o’clock.

Common reflexive verbs: Examples

Let’s take a look at some more examples:

  • Ogni mattina mi alzo alle sette e mezza.
    I wake up at half past seven every morning.
  • Ti fai la doccia due volte al giorno?
    Do you shower two times a day?
  • Come si chiama il tuo ragazzo?
    What’s your boyfriend’s name?
  • Abbassa la voce! I bambini si sono appena addormentati.
    Lower your voice! The children just fell asleep.
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