French Language Blog

How to Understand French Pronominal Verbs Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 in Grammar, Vocabulary

Les verbes pronominaux are usually easily recognizable: They are accompanied by a pronoun which agrees with the subject.

These pronouns can be:

        • me
        • te
        • se
        • nous
        • vous

For example, take the verb se nourrir, which is another way to say manger (to eat), similar to the English verb to nourish, to feed (oneself.)

You would say:

      • Je me nourris (I feed myself.)
      • Tu te nourris (You feed yourself.)
      • Il/elle se nourrit (He/she feeds herself.)
      • Nous nous nourrissons (We feed ourselves.)
      • Vous vous nourrissez  (You feed yourselves.)
      • Ils se nourrissent (They feed themselves.)

The previous example showed a special type of verbes pronominaux, namely a verbe pronominal with a direct object.

There are other cases where the pronominal verb has un object indirect.

Take for example the verb se raser (to shave) with the object la barbe (the beard): se raser la barbe (to shave one’s beard):

      • Je me rase la barbe (I shave my beard.)
      • Tu te rases la barbe (You shave your beard.)
      • Il se rase la barbe (He shaves his beard.) Notice that I didn’t include “elle se rase la barbe” (“she shaves her beard”)—but I guess now I just did 🙂
      • Nous nous rasons la barbe (We shave our beards.)
      • Vous vous rasez les barbes (You shave your beards.)

Finally, notice that some verbs are conjugated in both forms: la forme pronominale (pronominal form) and la forme non-pronominale (non-pronominal form.)

For example, the last verb we took, raser (to shave) can be pronominal, as we saw.

It can also be non-pronominal: “le barbier rase le client” (“the barber shave the client”), or as in the French expression “raser les murs” (“To hug the walls”, meaning to “try to walk undetected in the street.”)

Other verbs are exclusively pronominal: se moquer (to poke fun <at someone>); se souvenir (to remember); s’en aller (to leave), etc.

We’ll go in an upcoming post over more French verbs which are always pronominaux (pronominal.)

In the meantime, don’t forget to take a look at our great Transparent Language tools for learning French, you may find just what you need to improve your français skills.

We also have “Open House” events:

  • Today, jeudi (Thursday): September 27th, 2012 at 12-12:30pm United States EDT
  • Jeudi (Thursday) October 4th, 2012 at 12-12:30pm United States EDT
  • Jeudi (Thursday) October 11th, 2012 at 12-12:30pm United States EDT


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