Pronominal verb – verbe pronominal


Let's Define It!

What's a *pronominal verb*?

pronominal verb is a verb such as se lever (to get up), se doucher (to shower), s'asseoir (to sit down) etc.

In French, it's known as un verbe pronominaleIt is called pronominal because, well, it involves a pronoun placed before it (i.e. preceding it).

There are different types of pronominal verbs. Reflexive verbs is one of them.

The sole function of this pronoun in a reflexive verb is to refer back to the grammatical subject. In other words, by using a reflexive verb, you are saying that the subject of the verb is doing an action directed at the subject himself/herself. The subject and the object are both the same unless a different object is mentioned.

  • Elle se lève [She gets up].
  • Elle se brosse les dents [She brushes her teeth]. In the latter example, although a pronominal verb is used, the the subject and object are not really the same. She is the subject [Elle] and les dents [teeth] is the object placed after the verb se brosse. This last detail is very important when you deal with the passé composé.

Here is the list of all pronouns used in a pronominal verb: me, te, se, nous, vous, se. Keep in mind that me, te and se change into m', t' and s' when they are followed by a vowel or silent h.

Je m'habille. I am getting dressed.

The pronouns in pronominal verbs agree in gender and number with their subjects. je me lève (I get up), tu te lèves (you get up), nous nous levons (we get up)...

In English, as you  have noticed from our examples above, pronominal verbs aren't so openly marked as they are in French. You don't say for example, I get myself up. You just say I get up.

Another type of pronominal verbs is reciprocal verbs. They take pronouns too, but not  all of them: nous, vous and se. --> s'entendre (to get along), se rencontrer (to meet each other), etc.


Let's Pronounce It!

What does it sound like in French?


Let's Have an Example or Two!

Can a little reinforcement do the trick?

Here is a French pronominal verb conjugated in all the persons.

je me douche

tu te douches

il se douche

nous nous douchons

vous vous douchez

ils se douchent


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