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French Reflexive Verb: Se Débrouiller (To get by, to manage)

French Reflexive Verb: Se Débrouiller (To get by, to manage)

Within the first few days of a trip to France, you’ll most likely hear the reflexive verb se débrouiller. Translations of this verb include both “to get by” and “to manage”, and it’s often used in the context of getting by in languages. This post will explain precisely how to use se débrouiller. Keep reading.

se débrouiller

to get by, manage

Se débrouiller conjugation

In the non-reflexive from, débrouiller means both “to untangle”. However, for this post we’re interested in the verb in the reflexive form. If you’re unfamiliar with reflexive verbs, check out this post on our site.

Here’s how to conjugate se débrouiller in the present tense:

Je me débrouille I get by, manage
Tu te débrouilles You get buy, manage (singular, familiar)
Il/elle/on se débrouille He/she/one gets by, manages
Nous nous débrouillons We get by, mange
Vous vous débrouillez You get by, manage (plural, formal)
Ils/elles se débrouillent They get by

Example sentences with se débrouiller

The most common usage of se débrouiller that you’re most likely to hear on a trip to France is in the context of getting by in lanauges. For example:

Thomas se débrouille très bien en français.

Thomas gets by very in French.

Here’s another similar example:

Je ne parle pas couramment, mais je me débrouille plus ou moins.

I don’t speak fluently, but I get by more or less.

Another common usage of se débrouiller is in the context of “to figure it out” or “to manage”. For example:

Si tu as un problème, débrouille-toi tout seul !

If you have a problem, figure it out yourself!

Another fun usage is the informal expression système D, which is basically short for “système débrouiller” or “system figure it your yourself”.

Personne ne m’aide. Alors, c’est système D cette fois !

Nobody is helping me. So, I’ll gave to figure it out myself this time!


Et voilà ! You now know how to use the super useful verb, se débrouiller. Now check out our posts covering the most commonly used French verbs. If you’d like help with verb conjugations you may also consider French Today’s French verb drills (read review) course.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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