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Reflexive verbs questions

Hi, I've been learning French with Duo for a while, besides I also read some French learning books. But I really have a hard time understanding the Reflexive verbs.

e.g.: 1: Ils se mangent. it means they eat together. 2: ils se trouvent, it means they meet each other, word to word translation could be they find each other.

but here is the question, in sentence 1, the "se" is not the direct object of the verb, it simply means they themselves. but the 2nd sentence, the "se" is the direct object of the verb "trouvent". So i wonder, if i want to say they eat each other, not they eat together, my colleague told me(Quebec, they speak French), you should say ils se entre mangent. so are there any rules or explanations on the reflexive verbs? when or under what circumstance the "se" is the direct/indirect object or simple means together, or when i need to put the entre before the verb?


March 8, 2018

13 messages


" Ils se mangent " !!? (ils s'entremangent ? en francais du Quebec ?) these cannibals seem to have fun eating each other! they are truly direct objects of each other.

ils mangent ensemble = they eat together one hears also in France the colloquial form: je me mange un steack, un gateau, etc. to reinforce the "Je"

Ils se trouvent : they find each other if followed by a location as in " ils se trouvent a la maison" it should be translated by : they are at home.

Voila! bon courage !


Thanks Rinquin1, glad to know that "Ils se mangent" does mean they eat each other, otherwise, it contradicts all the rules I've learnt about French Reflexive verbs. it's a very interesting point that you gave this example "je me mange un steack", I guess this sentence is "fake" reflexive, right? if I understand correctly here the "me" is used to stress the subject instead of being the direct/indirect object of the verb? I'm not sure if it's totally colloquial, because i do see this kind of expressions on news, e.g.: la presse(one of the largest French publications in Quebec), and my colleague told me, you can remove the me/se in such sentences and they won't affect the meaning of it. Thanks a lot for your comment, it really helps me improve my French.


Ils se mangent. doesn't mean " they eat together" ils se mangent means "they eat eachother"


Hi annaritama562896, Thanks for confirming! so I guess like Rinquin1 pointed out, if I say "ils se mangent un steack", it means they themselves are eating a steak, but what if i say "ils se dejeunent", does it mean they themselves are having breakfast(in Quebec, Déjeuner means breakfast, they dont' say petit dejeuner, Diner means lunch, souper means supper), or it means they are eating each other as breakfast where se it's the direct object of the verb dejeuner?


debutant84821 In my opinion, "ils se mangent un steack" is not a very common way of speaking and will be classified within the 'familiar ' expressions and I wil try to avoid using this structure. In any case I will use 'ils se déjeunent'...for me it doesn't mean anything.


You're right, "se déjeuner" is not a correct phrase; "se manger quelque chose", "se boire un verre", "se regarder un film", "se prendre un bain", and so on, should be avoided in any formal setting. But would make you sound very natural in familiar situations in many places in France :)


"Ils se déjeunent" doesn't make any sense. nobody would say that in France. " You could say: "on se prend un dejeuner" is colloquial equivalent of let's get ourselves some lunch" .


Québécois here.

''Ils se mangent'' would, in most French speaking places, be understood as ''They eat each other'', as in cannibalism.

In Québec, it could be understood as cannibalism, but it is also highly likely to be understood as ''They're performing oral sex on each other'', hence why your colleague told you to use ''entre-mangent'' instead. The verb ''manger'' is often used when talking about oral sex around here. I won't ask where you got that example from, but I'm guessing it isn't from a French learning book! :-P

An example of reflexive verb that comes to mind is ''Je me lève'', meaning ''I'm getting up''. Or ''Je me coupe'', meaning ''I'm cutting myself''.

If used alone, ''Je lève'' would mean ''I lift'', so you would need to add a target to the action (''Je lève mon verre'', meaning ''I'm lifting my glass'' for example) ''Je coupe'' would mean ''I cut'', and you would again need to add the target of that action (''Je coupe des oignons'', meaning ''I'm cutting onions'', for example).

To keep it simple, reflexive verbs always mean the subject of the action is performing the action on itself.

Some more examples, all using the present tense:

Il s'appelle Georges. = His name is Georges.

Nous nous amusons. = We are having fun.

Elle se fâche! = She is getting angry!

Tu te soucies de lui. = You care about him.

Vous vous rasez. = You (plural) are shaving.

Ils se reposent = They are resting.

Some MORE examples, using the verb ''Blesser'' (To injure), but in other verb tenses:

Je me blesse = I'm injuring myself (Present tense)

Je me blessais = I injured myself (Imperfect tense)

Je me blesserai = I will injure myself (Future tense)

Je me blesserais = I would injure myself (Conditional tense)

On a final note: Yes, French can seem intimidating. But those little nuances are (part of!) the reason why it is called the language of love and is considered such a romantic language.

While English is (at least to me) much more useful and quick to use in a working environment, there isn't a better language than French to serenade someone! :-D


Thank you guys so much for your help and detailed explanations. I won't be able to reply to each of you guys, but my appreciation goes sincerely to each one of you. Your help means a lot to me. Merci beacoup pour vos aide et vos explications detailees. Je ne pourais pas repondre a tous, mais je vous remercie sincerement. votre aide me signifie beaucoup.


From a French person, "ils se mangent" would never mean "they eat together" ("ils mangent ensemble"), but trully, "they eat one another". Another meaning, quite common and not that logical maybe, would be: "they are edible".

"Est-ce que ces fruits sont décoratifs ?
— Non, ils se mangent." "Are these fruits (only) decoration?
— No, they are edible/they are for eating/you may eat them."

"Ils s'entremangent" is perfectly understandable, it conjures strange images, though, of actual cannibals eating each other alive ;p It's just another verb. There's a bunch of these: "(s')entremêler", to get tangled/to tangle; s'entreregarder, look at each other (rare). "Entrevoir" has nothing to do with reciprocity, it only means "to glimpse", while "entretenir" is either "to maintain" or "to talk someone about something". Sorry ;)

I agree with Rinquin and annaritama.

And I know how annoying my dearest tongue can be. Perhaps will you appreciate this page https://www.thoughtco.com/french-pronominal-and-pronominal-verbs-1368926 I generally find the site helpful. Reflexive verbs are only one part of pronominal verbs.

Bonne chance !


Hi Vabelie, I really appreciate your detailed explanation. It helped a lot. and the site you provided is truly helpful, much better than the French learning books i've been reading. Indeed, French is really a tough language, there are so many rules that apply in various situations, and at the same time there are a lot of exceptions as well. it makes it even harder. Even though I'm living in a French speaking environment, it didn't help me improve my speaking or listening at all, the French spoken here in Quebec especially the accent is so different from that i can learn in the French materials I get, I'm having a big trouble starting to use the French. sometimes i wonder when i can start using my French...lol. but good thing is, i'm not having a lot of troubles reading French here which is already an encouragement that keeps me going...I wish over time, I can start talking in French....Again thanks for helping me improve!


Hello, debutant :) I know right, some French people find it quite difficult to properly inderstand our cousins from Quebec (as of many things, I think it's mainly a question of getting used to : their TV series from a few years ago are so great I found no difficulty enjoying them).

But it should be confusing for someone first learning a language in one of its versions to be expected to live among a different one (whereas, when you're proficient in either France or Canadian French, the other should come easy).
Unfortunately, I can't recommend you many particular Quebec material, but you should concentrate on that for the time being. I absolutely love a series called La vie la vie (A bit of practice ;p) Their comedy stuff also made me cry laughing.
This is a good source for ebooks from Quebecois authors, especially here
Believe me, reading early in one's target language may seem ambitious enough, but had I dared earlier, I'd have saved ten years to my current English level (and a lot of frustration toward some translators…) With an electronic device and an inbuild dictionnary, the hassle is not even that big. Just don't if you find yourself overwhelmed: you should'nt encounter more than five to ten unknown words per page.
If it's the case, start with something shorter, such as songs lyrics: a song you like is short enough not to be intimidating, you can hear it many times, learn it by heart then sing it, free prononciation coaching and vocabulary training :) Don't overdo it: I stick to one a week in German, and not if I definitely don't feel like it. YT should give you a choice of singers matching your tastes https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=quebecois+singers, and the lyrics are often available on the Web (if it were easier to find each other on this site, I'd volunteer transcriptions for you with pleasure).
Or if you're passionate about anything (hobby, videogaming, sports, whatever) seek a way to do it in French/incorporate some French in it, preferably Quebecois French.

Most of it, try to enjoy yourself and your learning. You're right, with its many rules, exceptions to the rules and exceptions to exceptions, French is a language I'm not sure I'd have liked if I hadn't received it in my crib. But I love it. Never be afraid to talk: sure, you'll make mistakes, but we only learn by trying. I felt so frightened and self-conscious, I was genuinely convinced I wouldn't be understood if I was not perfect: guess what? The first time I dared, not only the German understood me, not only were they unbelievably kind in helping me improve, but we had the most meaningful conversations, leading to budding friendships. I wish you the same.
Something I found useful as well was writing kind of a diary about my learning journey, in my target language of course. It could be any length, it just had to be daily: this way, you use what you learn, but also you're compelled to learn what you need, and later it's great to see the way you went from your first clumsy attemps to more articulate thoughts (great ego boost when you think you made no progress).

All in all I wish you the best and hope to meet you again of the fora: never hesitate to seek any kind of advice from me.

Apprends une langue en seulement 5 minutes par jour. Gratuitement.