Module 04: L’identité
In this section:
A pronominal verb is a verb that is accompanied by a reflexive pronoun. Pronominal verbs fall into three major classes based on their meaning: reflexive, idiomatic, and reciprocal. You have probably already seen the pronominal verb s’appeler (Comment t’appelles-tu? What is your name?). To conjugate pronominal verbs in the present tense, you need to pay attention to both the pronoun and the verb form. Listen carefully to the conjugation of the following pronominal verb. The verb is conjugated normally (here an -er verb) with addition of the reflexive pronouns me, te, se, nous, vous, se.
|se raser ‘to shave oneself’
|je me rase
|nous nous rasons
|tu te rases
|vous vous rasez
|il/elle/iel/on se rase
|ils/elles/iels se rasent
Pronominal verbs often express reflexive actions, that is, the subject performs the action on itself. If the subject performs the action on someone else, the verb is not reflexive. Here is a list of common reflexive verbs:
|s’asseoir, to sit (down)
|s’appeler, to be called
|s’arrêter, to stop
|se brosser, to brush
|se coucher, to go to bed
|s’habiller, to get dressed
|se laver, to wash
|se lever, to get up
|se promener, to take a walk
|se réveiller, to wake up
Compare the difference in meaning between se raser and raser in the following sentences. Note that English does not usually indicate reflexive meaning explicitly since it can be inferred from the context. However, if reflexive meaning is intended in French, then it must be explicitly stated by using a reflexive pronoun.
|Est-ce que Tex se rase? Mais non, Tex, c’est un tatou. Il n’a pas de cheveux.
|Does Tex shave? Why no, Tex is an armadillo. He has no hair.
|Qu’est-ce qu’il fait, Tex, avec le rasoir? Il rase Joe-Bob pour l’été.
|What’s Tex doing with the razor? He’s shaving Joe-Bob for the summer.
To negate pronominal verbs, place the ne before the reflexive pronoun and the pas after the verb. When used with an auxiliary verb such as aimer (to like), the infinitive of a pronominal verb agrees with its subject. When pronominal verbs are used with parts of the body, they take the definite article (le, la, les) rather than the possessive article as in English: Tex se lave les mains. (Tex washes his hands.)
|Joe Bob: Edouard, est-ce que tu te rases?
|Joe Bob: Edouard, do you shave?
|Edouard: Non, je ne me rase pas.
|Edouard: No, I don’t shave.
|Les escargots ne se rasent pas. Pourtant, nous nous lavons le visage tous les jours.
|Snails don’t shave. However we do wash our faces every day.
|Joe-Bob: Ah, tu as de la chance. Je déteste me raser.
Some pronominal verbs are idiomatic and do not represent reflexive actions per se. s’amuser (to have fun) and se reposer (to rest) are examples of pronominal verbs with idiomatic meanings. The following list includes common idiomatic pronominal verbs:
|s’amuser, to have fun
|se dépêcher, to hurry
|s’endormir, to fall asleep
|s’ennuyer, to be bored
|s’entendre, to get along
|se fâcher, to get angry
|se marier, to get married
|se passer, to happen
|se reposer, to rest
|se sentir, to feel
|se souvenir de, to remember
|se taire, to be silent
|se tromper, to make a mistake
|se trouver, to be (situated)
A third category of pronominal verbs expresses a reciprocal action between more than one person, s’aimer or se parler, for example. The English equivalent often uses the phrase ‘each other’ to represent this reciprocal action. Here is a list of common reciprocal verbs:
|s’aimer, to love each other
|se détester, to hate each other
|se disputer, to argue
|s’embrasser, to kiss
|se parler, to talk to each other
|se quitter, to leave each other
|se regarder, to look at each other
|se retrouver, to meet each other
|se téléphoner, to telephone each other
To form the imperative of pronominal verbs, drop the subject pronoun and then attach the reflexive pronoun with a hyphen to the right side of the verb. The reflexive pronoun te becomes toi when used in the imperative. Dépêche-toi! Hurry up!, Souvenons-nous. Let’s remember., Amusez-vous! Have fun!
|Tammy décrit ses rapports avec Tex.
|Tammy describes her relationship with Tex.
|Tammy: Nous nous entendons très bien, sauf quand il se fâche.
|Tammy: Usually we get along very well except when he gets angry.
|Il me dit, «Assieds-toi et tais-toi, ma petite.»
|He tells me “Sit down and shut up, little one!”
|Mais nous nous aimons même si nous nous disputons un peu.
|But we love each other even if we fight a little bit.
|Nous allons nous marier un jour.
|We’re going to get married someday.