French Reflexive Verbs: Conjugation, Passé Composé, List

les verbes réfléchis

French reflexive verbsReflexive verbs are a group of verbs within the category of pronominal verbs. They are called reflexive cause the action carried out refers back to the subject. Most of the verbs in this category have something to do with daily routine. On this page you’ll find the conjugation of a reflexive verb in the present tense and passé composé. You’ll also find a list of the most common reflexive verbs.

present tense conjugation

This is se laver (to wash youself) conjugated in the present tense. The reflexive pronouns come between the personal pronoun and the verb.

  • je me laveI wash myself
  • tu te lavesyou wash yourself
  • il, elle se lavehe, she washes his/herself
  • nous nous lavonswe wash ourselves
  • vous vous lavez – you wash yourselves
  • ils, elles se lavent they wash themselves

passé composé conjugation

To conjugate a reflexive verb in the passé composé, use the verb être as your auxiliary (or helping) verb. The past past participle must agree in gender and number with the subject.

  • je me suis lavé(e)I washed myself
  • tu t’es lavé(e)you washed yourself
  • il/elle s’est lavé(e) – he, she washed him/herself
  • nous nous sommes lavé(e)s we washed ourselves
  • vous vous etes lavé(e)(s) – you washed yourselves
  • ils/elles se sont lavé(e)sthey washed themselves

When a direct object follows the reflexive verb there’s no need to make the agreement on the past participle. For example:

  • Elle s’est lavé les mains. She washed her hands.

In the negation wrap ne pas around the reflexive pronoun and the auxiliary verb. Students can stumble on these so it’s useful to practice repeating “nous ne nous”.

  • je ne me suis pas levé(e) I didn’t wash myself
  • tu ne t’es pas levé(e)you didn’t wash yourself
  • il/elle ne s’est pas levé(e)he, she didn’t wash him/herself
  • nous ne nous sommes pas levé(e)s we didn’t wash ourselves
  • vous ne vous êtes pas levé(e)(s)you didn’t wash yourselves
  • ils/elles ne se sont pas levé(e)s they didn’t wash themselves

working with infinitives

When the infinitive of a reflexive verb is preceded by another verbs such as aimer (to like), aller (going to), vouloir (to want), devoir (must), pouvoir (can) or avoir besoin de (needs) the reflexive pronoun (me, te, se) comes before the infinitive and agrees with the subject. Here are some example sentences.

  • Tu vas te raser. You’re going to shave.
  • Elle doit se calmer. She must calm down.
  • Je veux m’amuser. I want to have fun.
  • Nous aimons nous promener. We like to take walks.
  • Vous voulez vous lever. You want to get up.
  • Ils vont se coucher. They’re going to go to bed.
  • Elle va se doucher. She’s going to take a shower.
  • Il a besoin de se laver les dents. He needs to brush his teeth.
  • Vous devez vous dépêcher. You must hurry.
  • Tu peux te renseigner. You can get information.

In the negation wrap ne…pas around the first conjugated verb. The pas precedes the infinitive.

  • Je ne veux pas me lever. I don’t want to get up.
  • Ils ne veulent pas se mettre en colère. They don’t want to get angry.
  • Nous ne voulons pas nous coucher. We don’t want to go to bed.
  • Il n’aime pas se raser. He doesn’t like to shave.
  • Elle ne va pas s’arrêter. She’s not going to stop.

example sentences

Here’s a list of some example sentences using common reflexive verbs. We’ve put the verb in bold.

  • D’habitude, je me lève très tôt. I usually wake up very early.
  • Je me brosse les dents deux fois par jour. I brush my teeth daily.
  • Elle se maquille avant d’aller au travail. She puts on make up before going to work.
  • Il se coupe les ongles pour jouer de la guitare. He cuts his nails to play the guitar.
  • Je me lave la figure avant d’aller au lit. I wash my face before going to bed.
  • Je me rase tous les jour avant d’aller au travail. I shave every day before going to work.
  • Elle se lave les mains avant de cuisiner. She washes her hands before cooking.
  • Je m’habille apres avoir pris ma douche. I get dressed after taking my shower. 
  • Je me déshabille avant de mettre mon pyjama. I get undressed before putting on my pyjamas.
  • Je me couche toujours avant minuit. I always go to bed before midnight.

most common verb list

These are the most commonly reflexive verbs in the French language. They almost all have to do with daily routines and personal grooming.

  • se brosser les cheveux to brush one’s hair
  • se brosser les dents to brush one’s teeth
  • se couper/se limer les ongles to cut/file one’s nails
  • se déshabiller to get undressed
  • s’endormir to fall asleep
  • s’habiller to get dressed
  • se laver to wash up
  • se laver la figure to wash one’s face
  • se laver la tête to wash one’s hair
  • se laver les mains to wash one’s hands
  • se lever to get up
  • se maquiller to put on makeup
  • se peigner to comb one’s hair
  • se raser to shave
  • se reposer to rest
  • se sécher les cheveux to dry one’s hair
  • se coiffer to fix one’s hair
  • se doucher to take a shower
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