French For Football/Grammar/Verbs/Pronominal

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Pronominal verbs are verbs that, put simply, include pronouns. These pronouns are me, te, se, nous, and vous and are used as either direct objects or indirect objects, depending on the verb that they modify. When pronominal verbs are conjugated in perfect tenses, être is used as the auxiliary verb. There are three types of pronominal verbs: reflexive verbs, reciprocal verbs, and naturally pronominal verbs.

Reflexive Verbs[edit]

Reflexive verbs reflect the action on the subject.

  • Je me dépense. - I exert myself.
  • Nous nous dépensons. - We exert ourselves.
  • Ils se dépensent. - They exert themselves.

Reflexive verbs can also be used as infinitives.

  • Je vais me dépenser. - I'm going to exert myself.

Either the conjugated verb or the infinitive can be negated each with slightly different meanings.

  • Je ne vais pas me dépenser. - I'm not going to exert myself.

In perfect tenses, the past participles agree with the direct object pronoun, but not the indirect object pronoun, in gender and plurality. Therefore it would only agree when the reflexive pronoun is the direct object. Also remember that the past participle does not agree with the direct object if it goes after the verb.

  • Elle s'est blessée. - She injured herself.
  • Nous nous sommes blessé(e)s. - We injured ourselves.
  • Elle s'est cassé les orteils. - She broke her toes.
  • Nous nous sommes cassé les orteils. - We broke our toes.

Reciprocal Verbs[edit]

With reciprocal verbs, people perform actions to each other.

  • Nous nous rencontrons. - We meet each other.
  • Like reflexive verbs, the past participle of reciprocal verbs agrees in number and gender with the direct object if it goes before the verb. It therefore agrees with all reciprocal pronouns that function as direct objects.
  • Nous nous sommes rencontré(e)s. - We met each other.

The reciprocal pronoun can also function as an indirect object without a direct object pronoun.

  • Nous nous sommes parlé. - We spoke to each other.
  • Elles se sont téléphoné. - They telephoned one another.
  • Vous vous êtes écrit souvent? - You wrote to each other often?

Naturally Pronominal Verbs[edit]

Some verbs are pronominal without performing a reflexive or reciprocal action. Tu t'affoles? - Are you panicking?

  • In perfect tenses, these verbs agree with the direct object if it goes before the verb. Otherwise, the past participle agrees with the subject.
  • Elle s'est affolée. - She panicked.

Some verbs have different meanings as pronominal verbs.

  • rendre - to return, to give back
  • se rendre (à) - to go (to)

Reflexive Verbs Conjugation Patterns[edit]

Reflexive Verbs in French are actions that one does to oneself.

They can be recognised because their infinitive form has the pronoun se in front of it or s' before a vowel.

When conjugating a reflexive verb you must use the correct reflexive pronoun.

The following table shows which reflexive pronoun to use with different forms of the verb:

Subject Reflexive Pronoun
je me
tu te
il se
nous nous
vous vous
ils se

Here is an example conjugation of a reflexive verb:

se chauffer - to warm yourself up

Present[1] Passé Composé[2] Futur Proche[3]
Je me chauffe Je me suis chauffé Je vais me chauffer
Tu te chauffes Tu t'es chauffé(e) Tu vas te chauffer
Il se chauffe Il s'est chauffé Il va se chauffer
Elle se chauffe Elle s'est chauffée Elle va se chauffer
Nous nous chauffons Nous nous sommes chauffé(e)s Nous allons nous chauffer
Vous vous chauffez Vous vous êtes chauffé(e)(s) Vous allez vous chauffer
Ils se chauffent Ils se sont chauffés Ils vont se chauffer
Elles se chauffent Elles se sont chauffées Elles vont se chauffer

^ 1. The futur simple, passé simple, imperfect, conditional and subjunctive are all conjugated with the reflexive pronoun in the same position as in the present.

^ 2. All reflexive verbs take être in the passé composé and therefore have an e added to the past participle for females and an s for plural.

^ 3. When a reflexive verb is put as an infinitive behind any other verb (e.g. vouloir, pouvoir, aller...) it still takes the appropriate reflexive pronoun.


This page is based on original text from the French Wikibook, see link.