Verbs in Italian are called reflexive when the subject is carrying out the action with respect to himself or herself, for example when a man combs his hair. As you might expect, not all verbs can be reflexive: only the ones that the subject can do himself, such as falling asleep.
To create a reflexive verb, you add the ending -si, etiher at the end of the verb in its infinitive state (addomentarsi) or before the verb when it is conjugated (si e’ addormentato).
A verb is reflexive when the action is performed on the subject. For example the verb to wash one’s self is a reflexive verb because the person who is doing the action of washing is also the person who is receiving the action of being washed. Some more examples are:
to comb your hair
to dress up
to make yourself a sandwich
In all of the above examples, the subject (person who does the action) and the direct obejct (the person receiving the action) are one in the same.
In Italian we know that a verb is reflexive when the verb has the letters “si” attached to the infinitive. Some examples are:
svegliarsi = to wake up
lavarsi = to wash up
farsi un panino = to make yourself a sandwich
Notice that all of the Italian verbs above end in “si” so they are reflexive.
How to conjugate a reflexive verb
To conjugate a reflexive verb you need three things:
Subject + matching reflexive pronoun + conjugated verb (in that order!!)
The subjects in Italian are:
io = I
tu = you (informal)
lui = he
lei = she
Lei = you (formal)
noi = we
voi = you (plural)
loro = they
Loro = You (plural and formal)
Now each one of the above subjects matches up with its very own reflexive pronoun:
io – mi
tu – ti
lui – si
lei – si
Lei – si
noi – ci
voi – vi
loro – si
Loro – si
Finaly you will conjugate your verb. To learn how to conjugate a verb go to the following link: Italian Presente tense | Italy
Now here are some common reflexive verbs in Italian:
To fall asleep or go to sleep
To get up
To be bored
To dry off
To be called / named
To enjoy oneself
Farsi la barba
To shave oneself (beard)
Farsi il bagno
To bathe oneself (take a bath)
To wash oneself
Leggere il giornale
To read the paper
To put on clothing
Mettersi a [+ inf]
To begin / start
To comb one’s own hair
To worry (about)
Preparasi per [+ inf]
To prepare oneself for
To greet each other (reciprocal reflexive)
To wake up
To put on makeup
To get dressed
Let’s try one: We get up
1. Identify the subject which is “we” (In Italian “noi“)
2. Now match up “Noi” with the appropriate reflexive pronoun like I showed
you in the chart earlier. Noi matches up with “ci”
3. Now find the verb “to get up” from the list above. The verb is “alzarsi”. Now conjugate your verb according to the subject
(noi.) Since the subject is noi, my verb ending will be “iamo” (alzarsi —> alz —> alziamo ) Notice how I cut off
the “arsi” from the verb alzarsi and then I added my ending “iamo”.
4. Now take the three bold words from numbers 1,2,3 above and put them
together in a sentence:
Noi ci alziamo = We get up
Remember: the word order is always: Subject + pronoun + verb (in that order)
COMMON ITALIAN REFLEXIVE VERBS
mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si + verb
accorgersi (di) to notice
addormentarsi to fall asleep
alzarsi to get up
annoiarsi=to get bored
arrabbiarsi to get angry
chiamarsi to be named
coprirsi to cover oneself
divertirsi to have fun, to enjoy oneself
farsi il bagno to bathe oneself
farsi la doccia to take a shower
farsi male to get hurt, hurt oneself
innamorarsi (di) to fall in love with
lamentarsi to complain
lavarsi to wash oneself
laurearsi to graduate
mettersi to put (clothing) on
muoversi to move
pettinarsi to comb one’s hair
radersi to shave
sedersi to sit down
sentirsi to feel
spogliarsi to undress
sposarsi (con) to get married
svegliarsi to wake up
trasferirsi to move
vestirsi to get dressed
The reflexive pronouns (i pronomi reflessivi), mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si, are identical in form to direct object pronouns, except for the third-person form si (which is the same in the singular and in the plural). The following table includes the reflexive pronouns in Italian.
ITALIAN REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS
PERSON SINGULAR PLURAL
I mi (myself) ci (ourselves)
II ti (yourself) vi (yourselves)
III si (himself; herself; itself; yourself, formal) si (themselves; yourselves, formal)
To see how reflexive pronouns work with reflexive verbs, see a sample conjugation of lavarsi (to wash oneself) in the table below.
CONJUGATION OF THE VERB LAVARSI (TO WASH ONESELF)
PERSON SINGULAR PLURAL
io mi lavo=I wash myself
tu ti lavi=you wash yourself
lui/lei si lava=he/she washes him/herself
noi ci laviamo=we wash ourselves
voi vi lavate=you wash yourself
loro si lavano=they wash themselves
Just like direct object pronouns, reflexive pronouns are placed before a conjugated verb or attached to the infinitive.
Note that the reflexive pronoun agrees with the subject even when attached to the infinitive:
Mi alzo. (I’m getting up.)
Voglio alzarmi./Mi voglio alzare. (I want to get up.)
Mi, ti, si, and vi may drop the i before another vowel or an h and replace it with an apostrophe. Ci may drop the i only before another i or an e:
Voi v’arrabbiate facilmente. (You get angry easily.)
I ragazzi s’alzano alle sette. (The boys woke up at seven o’clock.)
A casa, m’annoio. (At home, I get bored.)
Note that some reflexive verbs can be used nonreflexively—without the reflexive pronouns. In this case, their meaning changes:
Tu ti alzi. (You get up.)
Tu alzi la sedia. (You lift the chair.)
1) Io mi alzo – I stand up (or, sometimes, I wake up…)
Ex. Io mi alzo alle 5 – I wake up at 5 o’clock
Ex. Mi alzo per vedere meglio – I stand up to have a better view.
Ex. Mi alzo da tavola alle 3 – I finish eating at 3 o’clock.
2) Alzo – I lift.
Ex. Alzo le borse della spesa – I lift the shopping bags
Ex. Alzo la musica – I turn the music up.
Ex. Alzo la voce – I speak louder (that is about a quarrel: Alzo la voce coi miei vicini – I’m about to quarrel with my neighbours)
3) Io alzo – I lift.
As Italian is very precise the use of I, You, He, She, We, etc. is not needed al the times. We just use them to remark a difference:
Ex. Io alzo il tavolo, tu spolveri il tappeto. I lift the table, you vacuum the carpet.
So the reflexive verb forms are always stricly about YOUSERLF.
Mi lavo: I wash myself
Lavo le lenzuola: I wash the sheets.
Mi sposto: I move myself
Sposto il tavolo – I move the table
Mi guardo allo specchio: I look at myself in the mirror
Guardo il panorama: I look at the landscape.
Mi vesto: I dress myself up.
Vesto mio figlio: I dress my son up.
Reflexive verb forms are also for actions that you’ll do alone o for yourself:
Mi preparo il pranzo – I prepare the dinner for myself (that means I will eat alone)
Preparo il pranzo – I prepare the dinner (that means I will eat with somebody else)
Mi vedo un film – I watch a movie (that means I’ll see it alone)
Vedo un film – I watch a movie (I could be with someone else).
Tu ti alzi. (You get up.)
Tu alzi la sedia. (You lift the chair.)
Sometimes non-reflexive verbs can be used in a reflexive form:
mi sono comprato una macchina=ho comprato una macchina (per me)
ci siamo mangiate una pizza=we ate a pizza
In the plural, non-reflexive verbs can be used with reflexive pronouns to indicate a reciprocal construction–some fun verbs are included here 😉
ci siamo innamorati=we fell in love with each other
ci siamo baciati=we kissed each other
ci siamo abbracciati=we embraaced each other
A. Complete the following with the appropriate present-tense forms of the indicated reflexive verbs.
Italian Reflexive Verb Exercise
1. Il signor Rossi ________ in medicina. (laurearsi)
2. Massimo ________ vicino alla porta. (sedersi)
3. Io ________ Anna Grazia. (chiamarsi)
4. Mia madre non lavora: ________ interamente alla famiglia. (dedicarsi)
5. Perché tu non ________ una vacanza? (prendersi)
6. Giorgio ________ la vita lavorando in un bar. (guadagnarsi)
7. Cinzia ________ una gonna per la festa. (comprarsi)
8. Il ghiaccio, col calore, ________. (sciogliersi)
9. Il cristallo è fragile: ________ facilmente. (rompersi)
10. Io e mio fratello ________ una lettera alla settimana. (scriversi
1. Il signor Rossi si laurea in medicina. (Mr. Rossi is graduating in medicine.)
2. Massimo si siede vicino alla porta. (Massimo sits near the door.)
3. Io mi chiamo Anna Grazia. (My name is Anna Grazia.)
4. Mia madre non lavora: si dedica interamente alla famiglia. (My mother doesn’t work: she devotes herself entirely to the family.)
5. Perché tu non ti prendi una vacanza? (Why don’t you take a vacation?)
6. Giorgio si guadagna la vita lavorando in un bar. (Giorgio earns his living working in a bar.)
7. Cinzia si compra una gonna per la festa. (Cinzia buys a skirt for the party.)
8. Il ghiaccio, col calore, si scioglie. (Ice, with heat, melts.)
9. Il cristallo è fragile: si rompe facilmente. (Crystal is fragile: it breaks easily.)
10. Io e mio fratello ci scriviamo una lettera alla settimana. (My brother and I write a letter to each other every week.)
Please visit Part I of our reflexive verbs article!