Reflexive verbs

Reflexive verbs - reflexive Verben - describe something you do to yourself.

Compare these sentences:

  • ich wasche das Auto

Question: What am I washing? Answer: The car

  • ich wasche mich

Question: What am I washing? Answer: Me

  • die Mutter badet das Baby

Question: What is the mother bathing? Answer: The baby

  • die Mutter badet sich

Question: What is the mother bathing? Answer: Herself

These are called reflexive verbs because the people doing the action are doing it to themselves.

Reflexive pronouns with reflexive verbs

Reflexive pronouns are the part of the verb which refers to myself, yourself etc, eg:

ich wasche mich und mein Bruder rasiert sich - I’m washing myself and my brother is shaving himself

Here are some facts to help you understand more about using reflexive pronouns with verbs:

  • reflexive verbs follow the usual patterns in the present tense
  • reflexive verbs must include the object of the action. This is called a reflexive pronoun
  • the reflexive pronoun goes immediately after the verb
  • the infinitives of reflexive verbs always include the pronoun sich

Reflexive pronouns using the verbsich duschen

sich duschen is a reflexive verb meaning 'to shower' or 'to have a shower'.

SubjectVerbReflexive pronounEnglish
ichduschemichI shower
duduschstdichyou shower
erduschtsichhe showers
sieduschtsichshe showers
esduschtsichit showers
wirduschenunswe shower
ihrduschteuchYou shower
Sieduschensichyou shower
sieduschensichthey shower

Using the infinitives, practise reflexive verbs by writing these sentences in German. Remember to conjugate the verbs in the usual way and include the right reflexive pronoun.

  • I’m interested in music. (sich interessieren für – to be interested in)
  • We are looking forward to Saturday. (sich freuen auf - to look forward to)
  • The man is shaving. (sich rasieren – to shave, to have a shave)
  • She gets annoyed every day. (sich ärgern – to get annoyed)
  • Ich interessiere mich für Musik.
  • Wir freuen uns auf Samstag.
  • Der Mann rasiert sich.
  • Sie ärgert sich jeden Tag.

Did you know?

'Trimm dich' has been a hugely popular campaign to improve German fitness, launched by the Deutscher Sportbund, German Sports Federation. Germans are literally 'trimming themselves' – die Deutschen trimmen sich.

Everywhere you will see cycle tracks, paths for running or walking or a Fitnesszentrum – sports centre or leisure centre.

Young people do sport (Sport treiben) outdoors or in a gymnasium (Turnhalle).

Remember that das Gymnasium is a high school or grammar school and not a gym. It has nothing to do with sport.

Group of three women stretching after sport on the grass with the sea in the background
The 'Trimm dich' campaign has been a great success