German Reflexive Verbs

German reflexive verbs are used in sentences where the subject carries out an action directed at themself.

These verbs are usually used with reflexive pronouns in German, which indicate that the action is directed at the subject.

Reflexive Pronouns in German

I discuss these more in detail in my post about pronouns in German, but here is the table with reflexive pronouns to help you while reading this post. Note that reflexive pronouns can only be in the accusative or dative cases, but I will put the nominative personal pronouns in the first column for reference:

Personal Pronouns in the Nominative CaseAccusativeDative
ich (I)mich (myself) mir (myself)
du (you, informal singular)dich (yourself)dir (yourself)
er (he)sich (himself)sich (himself)
sie (she)sich (herself)sich (herself)
es (it)sich (itself)sich (itself)
wir (we)uns (ourselves)uns (ourselves)
ihr (you, informal plural)euch (yourselves)euch (yourselves)
sie (they)sich (themselves)sich (themselves)
Sie (you, formal singular or plural)sich (yourself or yourselves)Ihnen (yourself or yourselves)

Knowing in which case the pronoun should be can be determined by asking one of the following two questions (other than if a preposition determines it for you):

  1. Accusative case: if the information in the sentence answers the question “who is doing what”
  2. Dative case: if the information in the sentence answers the question “who is doing what to what or whom”

For more details on how German reflexive pronouns work, refer to my post about German pronouns.

How to Use Reflexive Verbs in German

In German reflexive verbs are used quite a bit more than in English. For example, in German you would say “beeilen Sie sich“, but in English, a reflexive verb is not used, you would simply say “hurry up”.

Personal care routines such as brushing your teeth would use the reflexive form:

Ich putze mir die Zähne.

I brush my teeth.

Using These Verbs Without Pronouns

Some verbs, however, can be used without the reflexive pronoun, but this will change the meaning of the word. I will use “waschen” (“to wash”) as an example.

In the following sentence the reflexive form is used:

Du wächst dir am Abend die Hände.

You wash your hair in the evening.

However, “waschen” can also be used without the pronoun “dich“:

Du wächst dein Auto jeden Samstag.

List of German Reflexive Verbs

Seperable-Prefix Verbs

Here is a list of common reflexive verbs in German including separable-prefix reflexive verbs and reflexive verbs with prepositions in German:

Reflexive VerbEnglish VerbPronoun Case
sich abgewöhnento give up somethingDative
sich abshminkento take off one’s makeupAccusative
sich abtrocknento dry oneself offAccusative
sich (die Hände) abtrocknento dry (one’s hands)Dative
sich anziehento get dressedAccusative
sich (das Hemd) anziehento put on (one’s shirt)Dative
sich ärgern (über)to be angry or upset (about)Accusative
sich afregento get excitedAccusative
sich ausziehento get undressedAccusative
sich (die stiefel) ausziehento take off one’s shoesDative
sich bedienento serve oneselfAccusative
sich beeilento hurry (up)Accusative
sich befindento be locatedAccusative
sich bechäftigen mitto be occupied withDative
sich bewegento moveAccusative
sich berwerben umto apply forAccusative
sich duschento take a showerAccusative
sich eignento be suited (for)Accusative
sich einblindento (wrongly) imagineDative
sich entscheidento decideAccusative
sich erholento get better or recoverAccusative
sich erinnernto remember or recollectAccusative
sich erkundigen nachto ask aboutDative
sich erlaubento allow oneselfDative
sich freuen aufto look forward to somethingAccusative
sich freuen überto be happy about somethingAccusative
sich fürchten vorto be afraid ofDative
sich gewöhnen anto get used to somethingAccusative
sich handeln umto be aboutAccusative
sich interessieren fürto be interested inAccusative
sich irrento be wrongAccusative
sich kämmento comb oneselfAccusative
sich konzentrieren aufto focus onAccusative
sich kümmernto take care ofAccusative
sich (die Haare) kämmento comb (one’s hair)Dative
sich leistento affordDative
sich meldento reportAccusative
sich nähernto get close toDative
sich (die Zähne) Putzento brush one’s teethDative
sich rasierento shave oneselfAccusative
sich (das Gesicht) Rasierento shave one’s faceDative
sich setzen (oder hinsetzen)to sit downAccusative
sich sminkento put on one’s makeupAccusative
sich trauento dareAccusative
sich trennen vonto break up withDative
sich umsehento look aroundAccusative
sich vergewissernto make sure (of)Accusative
sich verlassen aufto rely onAccusative
sich verlieben into fall in love withAccusative
sich vorbereiten aufto get ready forAccusative
sich vornehmento plan to doDative
sich vorstellento introduce oneselfAccusative
sich waschento wash oneselfAccusative
sich (das Gesicht / die Haare / die Hände) waschento wash (one’s face / hair / hands)Dative
sich wundern überto be amazed atAccusative
sich wünschento wantDative

This list is quite comprehensive and will get you a long way.

Conclusion: German Reflexive Verbs

Using German reflexive verbs shouldn’t be hard. And if the questions “what are reflexive verbs in German” or “how to use reflexive verbs in German” ever popped into your head, I hope that answered your questions. If I didn’t, leave a comment below with your questions so I can help you.

xoxo,
Charlé

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