Reflexive verbs I: Italian grammar lesson 152


Unlock the secrets of reflexive verbs in Italian and master the art of speaking about yourself with finesse! This guide breaks down the nitty-gritty of verbi riflessivi, complete with rules, conjugations, and real-life examples. 🇮🇹✨

  • Reflexive 101: Dive into the world of reflexive verbs where the action bounces back to the subject. Learn how to use mi, ti, si, ci, vi to reflect actions like a pro. 🔄
  • False Friends Alert: Don’t get tricked by false reflexive verbs! They might look the part, but they’re just posers in the reflexive verb world. 🚫
  • Transitive Twist: Discover why only transitive verbs can play the dual role of being reflexive or non-reflexive. It’s like having a verb with a secret identity! 🎭
  • Auxiliary Allies: In compound tenses, reflexive verbs buddy up with essere (to be). Remember this dynamic duo for perfect past tense phrases. ⏳
  • Particle Placement: Get the lowdown on where to place those pesky particles. Before the verb? Attached to the end? We’ve got the answers. 🔍
  • Conjugation Station: Conquer conjugation with our handy charts for the present and past perfect tenses. You’ll be flexing those reflexive muscles in no time! 💪
  • Real Talk: Put your knowledge into action with examples that’ll help you nail the natural flow of reflexive verbs in everyday conversation. 🗣️

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Reflexive verbs: Explained

What are reflexive verbs? When the verb we are using refers back to the subject, the action “reflects itself” on it. In this case, we will use reflexive verbs, verbi riflessivi in Italian.

Some verbs behave like reflexive verbs, but technically they’re not reflexive. They’re called false reflexive verbs.

These verbs are always transitive (they take a direct object) and often have a non-reflexive version too.

  • Reflexive:

Mi lavo.

I wash myself.

  • Non-reflexive:

Lavo il mio cane.

I wash my dog.

In the reflexive form, the verb is preceded by a particle (mi -myself, ti – yourself, si –him/herself/themselves, ci -ourselves, vi – yourselves) that stands for the direct object, which in the case of reflexive verbs is the same as the subject.

Loro si lavano. = Loro lavano sé stessi.

They wash themselves.

Reflexive verbs: Rules

Here is a list of some things to remember when dealing with reflexive verbs:

Only transitive verbs can have both a reflexive and a non-reflexive form. In compound tenses, reflexive verbs always take the auxiliary verb essere (to be).

Mi sono lavata.

I washed myself.

Ci saremo svegliati.

We will have woken up.

The particle usually goes before the verb.

Mi vesto.

I dress myself.

Lui si lava.

He washes himself.

In the imperative and other indefinite tenses (infinite, participle, and gerund), the particle joins onto the end of the verb to create a single word.

  • Imperative: lavati (wash yourself)
  • Infinite: lavarsi (to wash oneself)
  • Participle: lavatosi (having washed himself)
  • Gerund: Lavandosi (washing him/herself-themself)

Reflexive verbs: Conjugation

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Here’s the conjugation in the presente and passato prossimo of some of the most used reflexive verbs in Italian:

(to get up)
(to sit)
(to dress oneself)
io mi alzo mi siedo  mi vesto 
tu ti alzi ti siedi  ti vesti 
lui, lei, Lei si alza si siede si veste 
noi ci alziamo ci sediamo  ci vestiamo 
voi vi alzate vi sedete  vi vestite 
loro, Loro si alzano si siedono si vestono


Passato Prossimo
(to get up)
(to sit)
(to dress oneself)
io  mi sono alzato/a mi sono seduto/a mi sono vestito/a
tu ti sei alzato/a ti sei seduto/a ti sei vestito/a
lui, lei, Lei  si è alzato/a si è seduto/a si è vestito/a
noi  ci siamo alzati/e ci siamo seduti/e ci siamo vestiti/e
voi  vi siete alzati/e vi siete seduti/e vi siete vestiti/e
loro, Loro si sono alzati/e si sono lavati/e si sono vestiti/e

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Reflexive verbs: Examples

To practice, read some more examples and try to find the particle that makes the verbs reflexive!

Mi sveglio presto per andare in palestra.

I wake (myself) up early to go to the gym.

Ieri Carla si è alzata alle 10.

Yesterday Carla got up at 10.

Gli atleti si cambiano negli spogliatoi.

The athletes get changed in the locker rooms.

Oggi ti sei vestito proprio male.

Today you really dressed badly.

Siediti vicino a me!

Sit down next to me!

Lavarsi le mani è importante per l’igiene personale.

Washing one’s hands is important for personal hygiene.

How do you write reflexive verbs in Italian?

Italian reflexive verbs are like regular verbs, but with a twist! You have to use the reflexive pronouns (mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si) before the conjugations, unlike in English, where they go afterwards.

Do all Italian reflexive verbs take essere?

Italian compound tenses in reflexive mode take essere as their auxiliary verb, but otherwise conjugate like any other non-reflexive verb - just don't forget to add the reflexive pronouns mi, ti, si, ci, vi, and si!

How do you use reflexive verbs in a sentence?

Reflexive verbs are used to express that the subject of a sentence has performed an action on itself. In other words, the subject of a reflexive sentence is the same as its object.

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