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Se Débrouiller (To Manage) – Conjugation, Meaning, Examples

Se Débrouiller (To Manage) – Conjugation, Meaning, Examples

se débrouillerSe débrouiller is an extremely commonly used French verb. However, it barely finds its way into the textbooks. Here we’ll take a close look at the various meanings of this verb and how to use it.

First of all, in it’s non-pronominal verb form (without the se), débrouiller means to untangle, unravel, arrange or sort out. However we’re more interested in the usage definitions of se débrouiller. First let’s take a look at the verb in the present tense. Here you can find a complete conjugation table.

  • je me débrouille
  • tu te débrouilles
  • il se débrouille
  • nous nous débrouillons
  • vous vous débrouillez
  • ils se débrouillent

se débrouiller meanings

Se débrouiller en means to get by in something. You’ll hear this usage immediately upon arriving in France. This may be the most common usage of the verb.

  • Dis donc! Tu te débrouilles bien en français! Say!
    You get by (or manage) very well in French!

Se débrouiller avec qqch means to get by with something.

  • Je me débrouille avec des pâtes pour le diner ce soir.
    I’ll get by with pasta for dinner tonight.

Se débrouiller avec seul means to get by on ones own.

  • Je n’ai besoin de personne. Je me débrouille tout seul!
    I don’t need anybody. I’ll get by on my own!

Se débrouiller sans qqch means to get by without something.

  • J’ai oublié le sucre. Je me débrouille sans.
    I forgot the sugar. I’ll get by without it.

Se débrouiller pour qqch means to figure out a way to do something.

  • Je me débrouille pour trouver du travail pendant la crise.
    I figure out a way to find work during the crisis.

Débrouille-toi! or Débrouillez-vous! in the imperative means figure it out yourself.

  • Tu ne comprends pas? C’est pas mon problème. Débrouille-toi!
    You don’t understand? It’s not my problem. Figure it out yourself!

In French slang, le Système D is short for le Système se debrouiller, referring to the idea of resourcefulness or figuring something out one’s own.

  • On a dû utiliser le système D pour trouver la bonne solution.
    We had to resort to System D to find the right solution.

As an adjective, débrouillard means resourceful.

  • Elle est tres débrouillarde. Elle trouve toujours les bonnes affaires.
    She’s very resourceful. She always finds good deals.
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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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