Les verbes pronominaux
Ça s’appelle des choux.
Reflexive verbs in French – Les verbes pronominaux
In this lesson, you’re stepping into a grammar zone. We’re studying verb forms such as reflexive, reciprocal or passive. So, please enter only if, just like me, you’re a French grammar nerd 🙂
Lots of French verbs have a SE – or S’ – in front of them. I like to call them ‘SE-verbs’. In good English though, they’re called ‘reflexive verbs’. For instance, you’ll hear that ‘S’APPELER’ or ‘S’AMUSER’ are reflexive verbs. However, to be more accurate, we should call these verbs ‘pronominal’ verbs.
A lot of French verbs can go from being simple to being reflexive. In that case, their meaning changes, sometimes, they even mean something totally different.
- appeler = to call someone – s’appeler = to be called, to call one another
- amuser = to entertain – s’amuser = to have fun
- passer = to pass – se passer = to give one another, to happen, to take place
Pronominal verbs can be reflexive, reciprocal or passive
Use a reflexive pronoun when the action of the verb is done onto itself.
- Je me suis passé la main dans les cheveux.
- I brushed my hair with my hand. (I passed my hand through my hair.)
Use a reciprocal pronoun when the action of the verb is done onto one another.
- Ils se sont passé les numéros en vitesse.
- They gave each other their numbers quickly.
Use a passive pronoun when the subject of the sentence undergoes the action, and is not doing the action itself.
- Qu’est-ce qui s’est passé ?
- What happened?
I call a verb ‘neutral’ any time the verb isn’t reflexive, reciprocal or passive.