German Reflexive Verbs: List and How to Use Them

Reflexive verbs are verbs which use a Reflexive Pronoun in both the infinitive (non-conjugated) and conjugated forms.

Reflexive verbs come in three types: always reflexive, sometimes reflexive, and change-of-meaning (the verb has a different meaning if it is accompanied by a reflexive pronoun, or if it is alone).

Always Reflexive

Verbs which must be used in the accompaniment of a reflexive pronoun are found in this category. For example, “Ich verspäte mich ein paar Minuten, tut mir leid!“ (I am running a few minutes late, sorry!) cannot be written without the reflexive pronoun “mich” (myself). 

Sometimes Reflexive

Verbs which can be used either with or without a reflexive pronoun belong to this group. This can be due to either an optional usage, or another usage not involving a reflexive relationship. An optional usage could be exemplified by the reflexive verb “sich duschen” (to take a shower) which could equally be written as “duschen” and keep the exact same meaning. A verb which can be reflexive or have a non-reflexive relationship is “sich verletzen” (to hurt oneself/to get hurt) or “etwas/jemanden verletzen” (to hurt something/somebody). If you yourself get hurt, it is reflexive; yet, if you hurt something or someone else, it is not reflexive.

Change-of-Meaning Reflexive

In this category belong the reflexive verbs which have completely different meanings if not accompanied by a reflexive pronoun. Take, for example, “sich auf jemanden verlassen” or “jemanden verlassen“. While they look similar, the former means “to rely on somebody” and the second one means “to leave/dump somebody”. 

A List of the Most Frequent Reflexive Verbs

sich anziehento get dressed
sich ausziehento undress
sich badento bathe
sich befindento be located
sich beschweren (über)to complain
sich duschento shower
sich freuento look forward to
sich fühlento feel
sich informierento inform youself
sich interessierento be interested in
sich kämmento comb yourself
sich legento lie (position)
sich rasierento shave
sich setzento sit
sich stellento stand
sich treffento meet
sich verabschiedento say goodbye
sich verletzento get injured
sich vorstellento introduce youself
sich waschento wash yourself
sich die Haare bürstento brush your hair
sich die Haare kämmento comb your hair
sich etwas anziehento put something on
sich etwas ausziehento take something off
sich etwas putzento clean something (on yourself)
sich wehtunto hurt yourself

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