Easy Learning German

Reflexive pronouns - Easy Learning Grammar German

What is a reflexive pronoun?
A reflexive pronoun is an object pronoun such as myself, yourself, himself, herself and ourselves that forms part of German reflexive verbs like sich waschen (meaning to wash) or sich setzen (meaning to sit down). A reflexive verb is a verb whose subject and object are the same and whose action is “reflected back” to its subject.
  • German reflexive pronouns have two forms: accusative (for the direct object pronoun) and dative (for the indirect object pronoun), as follows:
Accusative FormDative FormMeaning
michmirmyself
dichdiryourself (familiar)
sichsichhimself/herself/itself
unsunsourselves
eucheuchyourselves (plural)
sichsichthemselves
sichsichyourself/yourselves (polite)
 
Er hat sich rasiert.He had a shave.
Du hast dich gebadet.You had a bath.
Ich will es mir zuerst überlegen.I’ll have to think about it first.
  • Note that unlike personal pronouns and possessives, the polite forms have no capital letter.
Setzen Sie sich bitte.Please take a seat.
Nehmen Sie sich ruhig etwas Zeit.Take your time.
  • The reflexive pronoun usually follows the first verb in the sentence, with certain exceptions:
Sie wird sich darüber freuen.She’ll be pleased about that.
  • If the subject and verb are swapped round in the sentence, and the subject is a personal pronoun, then the reflexive pronoun must come AFTER the personal pronoun.
Darüber wird sie sich freuen.She’ll be pleased about that.
  • If the sentence is made of up two parts or clauses, then the reflexive pronoun comes AFTER the subject in the second clause.
Ich frage mich, ob sie sich darüber freuen wird.I wonder if she’ll be pleased about that.
  • Unlike English, reflexive pronouns are also used after prepositions when the pronoun “reflects back” to the subject of the sentence.
Er hatte nicht genug Geld bei sich.He didn’t have enough money on him.
Hatten Sie nicht genug Geld bei sich?Didn’t you have enough money on you?
  • Another use of reflexive pronouns in German is with transitive verbs where the action is performed for the benefit of the subject, as in the English phrase: I bought myself a new hat. The pronoun is not always translated in English.
Ich hole mir einen Kaffee.I’m going to get (myself) a coffee.
Sie hat sich eine neue Jacke gekauft.She bought (herself) a new jacket.
  • Reflexive pronouns are usually used in German where each other and one another would be used in English.
Wir sind uns letzte Woche begegnet.We met (each other) last week.
  • Note that einander, (meaning one another, each other), which does not change in form, may be used instead of a reflexive pronoun in such cases.
Wir kennen uns schon OR
Wir kennen einander schon.We already know each other.
  • After prepositions, einander is always used instead of a reflexive pronoun. The preposition and einander are then joined to form one word.
Sie redeten miteinander.They were talking to each other.
  • In English, pronouns used for emphasis are the same as normal reflexive pronouns, for example, I did it myself. In German selbst or, in informal spoken language, selber are used instead of reflexive pronouns for emphasis. They never change their form and are always stressed, regardless of their position in the sentence:
Ich selbst habe es nicht gelesen, aber …I haven’t read it myself, but …
Key points
  • German reflexive pronouns have two forms: accusative for the direct object pronoun and dative for the indirect object pronoun.
  • Reflexive pronouns are also used after prepositions when the pronoun “reflects back” to the subject of the sentence.
  • Reflexive pronouns are usually used in German where each other or one another would be used in English, but einander can be used as an alternative and is always used after prepositions.
  • Selbst or, in informal spoken German, selber are used instead of reflexive pronouns for emphasis.

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