Reflexive Verbs

On this page you'll find explanations about what reflexive verbs are, reflexive pronouns, how to tell if a verb is a true or partial reflexive verb, and when to use dative and when to use accusative.

What are Reflexive Verbs?

Reflexive verbs are verbs where the subject and the object are the same person or thing. The object is represented by a reflexive pronoun = representing the same person / thing as the subject. The subject can either be a normal noun or a personal pronoun.


Reflexive Pronouns

More information about reflexive pronouns can be found here: Reflexive Pronouns.

What are True Reflexive Verbs?

A true reflexive verb is always reflexive! You can't leave out the reflexive pronoun or replace it with another noun or pronoun.

  • „Ich konzentriere mich (auf den Unterricht).“

It is impossible to use "konzentrieren" without the reflexive pronoun!

In the dictionary these words are marked in the following way: "s. konzentrieren," "sich konzentrieren," or "konzentrieren (ref.)"

Be careful, because verbs that are reflexive in German might not be reflexive in your native language. When you learn a new verb, you also have to learn whether or not it is reflexive.

What are Partial Reflexive Verbs?

Partial reflexive verbs can be used in both a reflexive or non-reflexive way. It depends on the situation.

The subject can either act upon itself (reflexive pronoun needed!) or someone / something else (no reflexive pronoun!):

  • „Ich wasche mich.“
    (Subject acts on itself ⇒ Reflexive verb ⇒ We use a reflexive pronoun)
  • „Ich wasche die Wäsche.“
    (Subject acts on something else, "die Wäsche" ⇒ Not reflexive ⇒ Don't use a reflexive pronoun.)

Dative or Accusative?

The general rule:

Exceptions: When the verb requires a certain case.

Word Order with Reflexive Verbs

In the main clause:

In subordinate clauses:

  • „Ich dusche mich jetzt nicht,…“ – Hauptsatz

Only the verb goes to the end. The reflexive pronoun stays in position 3.

With modal verbs and helping verbs.

Reflexivpronomen mit Modalverben

Only the verb goes to the end. The reflexive pronoun stays in position 3 (after the modal verb or helping verb).

Related Topics:

Reflexive verbs use reflexive pronouns.

The pronouns can be in the dative case or the accusative case.

Word order depends on if it's a main clause or subordinate clause.

Leave a Comment: