False reflexives – Riflessivi impropri I: Italian grammar lesson 153


Dive into the quirky world of Italian “riflessivi apparenti”, where verbs look reflexive but have a twist! Uncover the secret behind these verbs that are all about doing something “to oneself” rather than “oneself”. 🤔🇮🇹

  • Not Your Average Reflexives: Get the scoop on riflessivi apparenti, where the usual suspects mi, ti, si, ci, vi play a different role, indicating actions done “to oneself”. 🔄
  • Grammar Twist: While they may masquerade as reflexive verbs, these verbs are all about the indirect object. It’s not just about “me” but “to me” – a subtle but game-changing detail. 🎭
  • Conjugation Station: Conjugate with confidence! These verbs follow the reflexive pattern but always tag along with an object. Remember, mi compro isn’t a solo act; there’s something being bought! 🛍️
  • Passato Prossimo Prowess: Master the past tense with Passato Prossimo. Just like a reflexive, but with a twist. It’s all about what you did “to yourself” in the past. ⏳
  • Real-Life Examples: Bring your Italian to life with examples that show off these verbs in action. From buying bikes to brushing hair, see how riflessivi apparenti work in the wild. 🏍️💇‍♀️

My thoughts

Riflessivi apparenti: Explained

In Italian, there are verbs that look like reflexives (they use mi, ti, si, ci, vi), but are not! There are 3 types of riflessivi impropri:

Let’s take a look at the first ones.

These are verbs in which the pronominal particles (mi, ti, si, ci, vi) are not used as direct objects, but they represent 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 a direct object (i capelli), with si meaning “to themselves”, referred to le ragazze.

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).

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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

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.

What is a reflexive verb in Italian?

A reflexive verb in Italian is a verb in which the subject is performing an action upon itself.

How can you tell whether a verb is reflexive or non-reflexive?

A reflexive verb is one in which the subject and object of the sentence are the same. In other words, the subject is performing an action on itself. If the subject is performing an action on someone or something else, the verb is not reflexive.

Italian word of the day
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
Do you feel like going for a walk?
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