German Reflexive Verbs

What is German Reflexive Verbs and How to Use it in a German Sentence?

I. Introduction

A. The Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs in the German language are verbs that mirrors back onto the subject itself. The use of reflexive pronouns, typically suggest that the action is aimed back towards the subject, who characterizes these verbs. These reflexive pronouns often finish in “-sich” and vary according to the grammatical person and number.


– Sich waschen (to wash oneself)

– Sich freuen (to be happy, to rejoice)

B. Significance in German Grammar

1. Reflecting Personal Actions

   – Reflexive verbs are essential for showing the acts a subject does on its own.

Example: “Ich wasche mich jeden Morgen.” (I wash myself every morning.)

In this sentence, the reflexive verb “waschen” (to wash) is conjugated to correspond with the subject “Ich” (I). The speaker is washing themselves, as shown by the personal pronoun “mich” (myself). 

2. Conjugation Obstacles

– Conjugating reflexive verbs requires selecting the appropriate reflexive pronoun and changing the verb. 

Example: “Sie freut sich auf das Konzert.” (She is looking forward to the concert.)

“Sich freuen” is the reflexive verb in this sentence, which means “to look forward to.” In present tense, when linking reflexive verbs, the reflexive pronoun “sich” needs to match the subject “Sie” (she). The irregular form of the word “freuen” restricts it from following the normal verb pattern.

The conjugation for “sich freuen” in the present tense is as follows:

– Ich freue mich (I look forward)

– Du freust dich (You look forward)

– Er/sie/es freut sich (He/she/it looks forward)

– Wir freuen uns (We look forward)

– Ihr freut euch (You look forward)

– Sie freuen sich (They look forward)

II. Formation of Reflexive Verbs

A. Reflexive Pronouns

These pronouns are essential with reflexive verbs. They help in showing the action back to the subject. The subject’s gender and number determine the reflexive pronouns used.

1. Singular Pronouns:

   – ich (myself)

   – du (yourself – informal singular)

   – er/sie/es (himself/herself/itself)

   Example: “Ich wasche mich.” (I wash myself.)

2. Plural Pronouns:

   – wir (ourselves)

   – ihr (yourselves – informal plural)

   – sie (themselves)

   Example: “Wir freuen uns.” (We are happy.)

B. Placement in Sentences

The rules for creating reflexive pronouns are unusual, so applying them correctly is important for correct grammar.

1. Simple Present Tense:

   – The pronouns should be placed before the conjugated verb.

   Example: “Ich trinke Wasser.” (I drink water.)

2. Present Perfect Tense (Perfekt):

   – The pronouns are placed before the auxiliary verb “haben” or “sein.”

   Example: “Ich habe mich gut vorbereitet.” (I have prepared myself well.)

3. Simple Past Tense (Präteritum):

   – In Präteritum, the pronouns are placed before the conjugated main verb.

   Example: “Du wuschst dich.” (You washed yourself.)

4. Imperative Sentences:

   – In commands, the pronouns are added at the end of the verb with a hyphen.

   Example: “Wasch dich!” (Wash yourself!)

III. Types of Reflexive Verbs

A. Daily Routine Reflexive Verbs

Daily routine reflexive verbs in German are used to express activities related to personal care and routine actions that individuals perform on themselves regularly. These verbs often reflect common activities in daily life.


   – sich waschen (to wash oneself)

   – sich anziehen (to get dressed)

   – sich kämmen (to comb one’s hair)

   Example Sentence: “Am Morgen wasche ich mich und ziehe mich dann an.” (In the morning, I wash myself and then get dressed.)

B. The Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs

These verbs refer to activities that two or more persons conduct on each other. They express mutual or reciprocal activities.


   – sich umarmen (to hug each other)

   – sich küssen (to kiss each other)

   – sich helfen (to help each other)

   Example Sentence: “Sie umarmen sich zur Begrüßung.” (They hug each other as a greeting.)

C. Reflexive Verbs for Emotions and States

These verbs also serve to express feelings and states that the subject have.


   – sich freuen (to be happy)

   – sich ärgern (to be annoyed)

   – sich langweilen (to be bored)

   Example Sentence: “Ich freue mich auf das Wochenende.” (I am looking forward to the weekend.)

IV. Common Mistakes You Should Remember

1. Forgetting the reflexive pronouns

Example: “Er duscht” (He showers) 

Correct: “Er duscht sich” (He showers himself).

2. Misplacing reflexive pronouns

For example, “Ich mich wasche”  

Correct: “Ich wasche mich” (I wash myself).

3. Complicating reflexive and non-reflexive verbs

Example: “Ich schlafe das Kind” 

Correct: “Ich schlafe das Kind ein” (I put the child to sleep).

4. Incorrectly conjugating reflexive verbs

Example: “Du dich wascht” 

Correct: “Du wäschst dich” (you wash yourself).

5. Forgetting reflexive pronouns when they are necessary

Example: “Sie kämmt die Haare” 

Correct: “Sie kämmt sich die Haare” (She combs her hair).

B. Correctly Using the Reflexive Pronouns

  1. Reflexive pronouns are usually placed before the conjugated verb, or connected to the infinitive or the end of the participles.

A. Before the conjugated verb:

   – Ich wasche mich. (I wash myself.)

   – Er rasiert sich. (He shaves himself.)

B. Connected to the infinitive:

   – Sie muss sich beeilen. (She must hurry herself.)

   – Wir wollen uns treffen. (We want to meet ourselves.)

C. Connected to the end of the participles:

   – Sie hat sich verletzt. (She has hurt herself.)

   – Ihr habt euch gefreut. (You have rejoiced yourselves.)

2. Arrangement: Reflexive pronouns have to match the subject’s gender and number.

   – Example: “Sie kämmt sich.” (She is combing [herself].)

3. Avoiding Redundancy: Be cautious about using both a reflexive pronoun and a separate object. This can lead to redundancy.

   – Incorrect: “Ich wasche mich die Hände.” (I wash [myself] the hands.)

   – Correct: “Ich wasche mir die Hände.” (I wash [myself] the hands.)

VII. Practical Exercises

I want to see what you have learned. Why don’t you try these German reflexive verbs exercises?

A. Fill in the Blank Sentences

1. Ich __________ (anziehen) mich für die Party.

   – (Put on) I dress [myself] for the party.

2. Wir __________ (sich freuen) auf das Wochenende.

   – (Look forward to) We are looking forward to the weekend.

3. Du __________ (sich setzen) am Tisch und isst.

   – (Sit down) You sit [yourself] at the table and eat.

4. Sie __________ (sich waschen) die Hände vor dem Essen.

   – (Wash) She washes [her] hands before eating.

5. Ihr __________ (sich interessieren) für Kunst.

   – (Be interested in) You [plural] are interested in art.

B. Constructing Sentences with Reflexive Verbs

1. _____________________________________________________________________.

   – (Expressing daily routine)

2. _____________________________________________________________________.

   – (Talking about mutual actions)

3. _____________________________________________________________________.

   – (Describing an emotional state)

4. _____________________________________________________________________.

   – (Discussing personal care activities)

5. _____________________________________________________________________.

   – (Discussing plans or intentions)

VII. Conclusion

Understanding German reflexive verbs is important for a better grasp of personal actions, relationships and emotions. To enhance your understanding, try using various resources and methods. If you’re eager to learn the German language, click the link to improve your proficiency. Vier Erfolg (Good luck) on your language-learning journey!

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