I verbi reflessivi (Reflexive verbs)

Have you wondered when to use reflexive pronouns before a verb?
Basically you need them when you are including the English word "self" (or "selves", in the case of plural).
Thus, "mi" means "myself"-- if it is used in front of a verb and refers to "myself".
Ti is used for "yourself", si is used for "himself" or "herself" or "itself", or "oneself", ci is "ourselves", vi is "yourselves (plural), and we use si again for "themselves".

This isn't to say that certain verbs are always reflexive-- take "lavare" (to wash), for example.
For all occasions when you are not using the word "self" in the translation, lavare works just like any other "ARE" verb:

  • Lui lava la macchina (He washes the car)
  • Io lavo il mio cane (I wash my dog)


  • Mi lavo (I wash myself )
  • Si lava (He/ She/ It washes himself / herself/ itself)

The verbs in the cute picture above are a reminder of when to use the reflexive form of that verb base.
We often leave out the word "self" in English.
"I shave" or "She gets up".
But, in Italian, "I shave myself, and "She gets herself up:

  • Mi faccio la barba
  • Si alza

The other noteworthy thing to remember is that when you use a reflexive verb, you have to match the gender and quantity of the subject(s) in the past tense, and that means always using the auxillary verb ESSERE in front of the conjugated verb, as well:

  • Maria si è vestita. (She got dressed. A male subject would use "è vestito**.)
  • I bambini si sono lavati (The children washed themselves; "the children" being a mixture of girls and boys, or just boys. If it were all females, we would have used sono lavate.)
April 21, 2016


The reason that I got into this topic was the verb "sentire" (and "sentirsi").
I was under the impression that "sentire" was to hear and "sentirsi" was to feel", so you'd always use the reflexive when you feel something, and that way you could tell "hear" and "feel" apart. But now I have doubts.

I now believe that "feel" is only used in the reflexive when it comes to the state of your being; that is, how you feel-- I feel happy, I feel sick, and so on.
But if you use the word "feel" as in the sense of touch, then you're back to nonreflexive.
The Duolingo sentence "He felt something in his shoe." did not use the reflexive form of sentito.

April 21, 2016

You use "sentire" also when it is followed by a noun for an emotion: sadness, happiness, anger, etc. Basically, if it's followed by a noun of any sort, you use the non-reflexive "sentire" - you just use the reflexive "sentirsi" with adjectives.

April 22, 2016

That's what I've been wanting to find out-- Grazie!!

April 22, 2016

Thanks Mabby, useful as always!

Here's another little little trick I discovered for remembering to use the reflexive with body parts.

Unlike English, Italian normally uses the reflexive, instead of possessive pronouns, to refer to body parts.

For example:

  • Mi lascio crescere i capelli per la parte. - I'm growing out my hair for the role.

This form has always confused me, but I recently discovered that we actually have the same construction in English with specific verbs. Specifically, what I will call "violent verbs": hit, cut, shoot, ect...

  • I cut myself on the lip.
  • I shot myself in the foot. ect... If you can remember this construction, it makes it a little easier to digest the Italian.
April 25, 2016
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