Italian Language Blog

Reflexive Verbs – Part 1 Posted by on Sep 4, 2018 in Grammar

You won’t get very far in Italian without reflexive verbs. Many are fundamental to everyday conversation, and not too difficult to grasp, others are more obscure and can be hard to conjugate.

Mi chiamo Geoff (my name is Geoff, literally: I call myself Geoff). This is probably one of the first Italian phrases that I learnt. If Italian is you first encounter with a Romance language, it may seem a bit odd to say ‘I call myself ___’, but it’s a useful introduction to an important group of Italian verbs know as verbi riflessivi (reflexive verbs).
Verbi riflessivi are used when the subject carries out an action on him/herself. Essential to their usage is a knowledge of reflexive pronouns, not to be confused with the very similar indirect pronouns.

Pronomi riflessivi (reflexive pronouns):
mi = myself
ti = yourself (informal)
si = himself/herself/itself/yourself
ci = ourselves
vi = yourselves
si = themselves

Let’s continue with the reflexive verb chiamarsi (to call oneself) as an example of how these verbs function. Chiamarsi is constructed from the verb chiamare (to call) + the third person singular reflexive pronoun = si (himself/herself/itself/yourself).

Now we’ll compare the regular verb chiamare with its reflexive counterpart chiamarsi:

Here are the present tense conjugations of the verb chiamare (to call):
io chiamo = I call
tu chiami = you (singular, informal) call
lui/lei chiama = he/she/it calls
noi chiamiamo = we call
voi chiamate = you (plural) call
loro chiamano = they call

Here are the present tense conjugations of the reflexive verb chiamarsi (to call oneself)
io mi chiamo = I call myself
tu ti chiami = you (singular, informal) call yourself
lui/lei si chiama = he/she/it calls himself/herself/itself/yourself
noi ci chiamiamo = we call ourselves
voi vi chiamate = you (plural) call yourselves
loro si chiamano = they call themselves

Do you see how the reflexive pronouns come into play in chiamarsi? Note that although we usually say mi chiamo, ti chiami etc. we can give this phrase more emphasis by using io mi chiamo, tu ti chiami etc.

Noi ci chiamiamo il Gruppo Salvagatti di Valdantena

Here are a few more examples using present tense conjugations of chiamarsi:
come si chiamano di cognome? = what is their surname (literally: how do they call themselves by surname)
io sono Sara e la mia amica si chiama Luisa = I’m Sara and my friend is called Luisa (Literally: and my friend calls herself Luisa)
noi ci chiamiamo il Gruppo Salvagatti di Valdantena = we call ourselves the Cat Saver Group of Valdantena

Here are some more useful reflexive verbs:
abituarsi a = to get used to
accontentarsi di = to be satisfied with
addormentarsi = to go to sleep
allontanarsi = to move away
alzarsi = to get up
annoiarsi = to get bored
arrabbiarsi = to get angry
aspettarsi di = to expect
bruciarsi = to burn oneself
cambiarsi = to change clothes
chiedersi = to wonder
dimenticarsi = to forget
divertirsi = to have fun
domandarsi = to ask oneself
farsi i capelli = to do one’s hair
farsi il bagno = to bathe oneself
farsi la barba = to shave oneself
farsi male = to hurt oneself
fidanzarsi = to get engaged
lamentarsi = to complain
lavarsi = to wash oneself
occuparsi di = to take care of
pettinarsi = to comb oneself
preoccuparsi di = to worry about
prepararsi a = to get ready to
presentarsi a = to introduce oneself
rassegnarsi a = to resign oneself to
rendersi conto di = to realize, to become aware of
ricordarsi di = to remember about/to
riposarsi = to rest
sbagliarsi = to be mistaken
sbrigarsi = to hurry
scordarsi = to forget
sdraiarsi = to lie down
sedersi = to sit
sentirsi = to feel
sposarsi con = to get married to
svegliarsi = to wake up
tagliarsi = to cut oneself
vantarsi di = to boast
vestirsi = to get dressed

If you follow the same structure given for chiamarsi you should be able to conjugate any of the above. Here are a few examples:
alzarsi = to get up: a che ora ti alzi? what time do you get up? … mi alzo alle sette e mezza = I get up at seven thirty
lamentarsi = to complain: lei si lamenta troppo! = she complains too much!
riposarsi = to rest: abbiamo fatto una lunga passeggiata, ora ci riposiamo = we’ve done a long walk, now we’ll rest
vestirsi = to get dressed: i bimbi si vestono molto lentamente = the children dress themselves very slowly

In part 2 we’ll take a look at how we conjugate reflexive verbs in the imperative, the infinitive and the past tense

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  1. Arnie:

    This was a tremendous help to me !
    Thank you

  2. Rosalind:

    Mi pare che questo gatti si rallegri d’essere stato salvato dal gruppo Salvagatti.

  3. Kimberly Koehler:

    Have you ever considered releasing your blogs in a book? Your explanations are ten times clearer than any “course” I’ve ever used. Per favore!

    • Geoff:

      @Kimberly Koehler Thanks for the compliment Kimberly, it means a lot!
      I’ve passed your suggestion on to our manager at Transparent Language. It has been suggested by other readers in the past, perhaps now’s the time.
      Watch this space!!!

      A presto πŸ™‚

      • Donna:

        @Geoff Oh yes please! I would definitely buy a copy!

  4. Jacqueline Finn:

    Is it possible for your website manager to include a text only printing option? I keep a folder of many of your posts and would prefer not to have to archive the photos and ads. Thanks, Jacqueline

    • Geoff:

      @Jacqueline Finn Ciao Jacqueline, I believe this has been asked before, and I’m afraid that the answer, unfortunately, is no.

      The easiest thing to do would be to highlight the post by dragging your cursor over the whole of the text, then pasting it into a text document. Personally, I use the free LibreOffice Writer (much better than microsoft!) If it copies the photo as well, you can easily delete it, it’s just a couple minutes work.

      If you need any more help let me know, okay?

      Saluti da geoff πŸ™‚

  5. Norma Tingram:

    With regard to “io sono Sara e la mia amica si chiama Luisa”. Are both these forms equally acceptable for presenting oneself or others? How about “io sono Sara e la mia amica e` Luisa”?

    • Geoff:

      @Norma Tingram Ciao Norma, it’s perfectly fine to say “piacere, sono Norma” (“pleased to meet you, I’m Norma”), or “sono Norma e questa Γ¨ Luisa” (“I’m Norma and this is Luisa”). As for your phrase β€œio sono Sara e la mia amica e` Luisa”, it’s not exactly wrong, but it would sound more natural to say “io sono Sara e questa Γ¨ la mia amica Luisa”, pretty much as you would in English.

      Saluti da Geoff πŸ™‚

  6. Chippy:

    Un’altro blog meraviglioso. Sono d’accordo con tutti gli altri complimenti. Graziemille!!

  7. Peni Schwartz:

    Ciao, Geoff!

    Your posts are a tremendous help–especially this one on reflexive verbs and pronouns. Somehow, I have never understood how/why to properly use the pronouns for these particular verbs. Thank you!

    On another note: how does one make contributions to support your site? In the past, I tried writing an email asking how to do this using a credit card but didn’t receive an answer. Now, I realize I probably should have done it thru a post … like this one. If you can tell me how, I will willingly contribute, as I have been reading/enjoying your Italian lessons for years now….


    • Geoff:

      @Peni Schwartz Ciao Peni, grazie per il tuo commento molto gentile!

      We write for Transparent Language. Our blog is a kind of ‘honey pot’ for them as it serves to attract people who may want to invest in their language learning software and online courses (not our department).
      Hence, the blogs are free (Transparent pays us for our work) and any further resources have to be paid for.
      Here’s their home page if you feel inclined to see what’s on offer. Otherwise, continue to follow the blog for free!

      A presto; Geoff πŸ™‚

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