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Verbs in the Mirror Posted by on Jan 31, 2017 in grammar, History

Drømte mig en drøm i nat… (Dreamt myself a dream tonight…) One of the oldest songs in the Danish language (click here to listen to it) starts with a reflexive verb. Since there is a difference between I wash myself and I wash the dog, speakers of many languages found a way to refer back to … themselves. A reflexive verb in Danish is used with the corresponding reflexive pronoun – for example at hygge sig (to enjoy oneself, to have a good time, to be a part of the Danish hygge):

Den ser sig i spejlet… (Photo courtesy of Brianfagan at Flickr, CC License.)

jeg hygger mig – vi hygger os

du hygger dig – I hygger jer

han, hun, man, den/det hygger sig – de hygger sig

Note that sig corresponds to either himself, herself, oneself, itself or themselves in English.

Some of these verbs are used both with and without the reflexive pronoun: Jeg vasker mig. Jeg vasker hunden. Many of them, however, are reflexive 99% of the time, and may even change their meaning if you forget the extra pronoun – be ware! Han rejser sig (He gets up) isn’t the same as Han rejser (He’s travelling). A few verbs are always reflexive, such as at skutte sig (to shake oneself). Here are some very common Danish reflexive verbs:

at skynde sig – to hurry

at glæde sig – to look forward to

at kede sig – to be bored

at sætte sig – to sit down

at koncentrere sig – to focus

at gifte sig – to marry

at forelske sig – to fall in love

at blære sig – to show off

at pynte sig – to adorn oneself

at skamme sig – to be ashamed

at øve sig – to practice

at slanke sig – to slim, to get slimmer

at ønske sig – to wish

at more sig – to have fun

at vænne sig – to get used to

at blande sig – to meddle (bland dig uden om! mend your own business!)

at interessere sig for – to be interested in

at beslutte sig – to make up one’s mind

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.