How To Conjugate Reflexive Verbs In Italian

avatarMille Larsen
3 mins read

Yesterday, we took a moment to understand reflexive verbs, and various ways in which they might be used. Today, we're going to figure out how to use them in Italian.

Reflexive Italian verbs

As we've already learned, Italian verbs have three endings: -are, -ere, and -ire. All three endings end on an e, and that's all we need to know.

To make any verb reflexive you simply drop that e and replace it with si. Thus, Italian reflexive verbs end in -arsi, -ersi, or -irsi.

Conjugating reflexive Italian verbs

That si on the end of the verb is call the "reflexive pronoun". Any time you see that -si on the end of a verb, you know that it is reflexive. But it's only on the end in the infinitive form. When conjugating the verb, you remove that ending and move it to the front, making sure to match the subject. Then, conjugate the verb normally.

The reflexive pronouns are:

  singular plural
1st person mi ci
2nd person ti vi
3rd person si si

So for instance, to conjugate the verb larvarsi (to wash), you move the ending to the front, changing it for the correct reflexive pronoun above. Then conjugate the verb normally:

  singular plural
1st person mi lavo ci laviamo
2nd person ti lavi vi lavate
3rd person si lava si lavano

Not so hard.

Using reflective verbs in Italian

Some verbs which which are not reflexive in English become reflexive when you use them in Italian.

  • chiamarsi: To be named. Literally, "to call yourself."
  • farsi la doccia: Take a shower. Literally, "to make yourself a shower."
  • vestirsi: Get dressed. Literally, "to dress yourself".

Thus, to say "I am taking a shower", you would say io mi faccio la doccia. Or to say "my name is Randy", I say io mi chiamo Randy.

As we learned yesterday, we can also use the reflexive to indicate reciprocal action. For instance, Maria e Pietro si baciano — "Maria and Pietro kiss each other."

And to speak in a more passive manner, we can use the anticausative, such as la porta si apre a la sinistra, to say "the door opens to the left." Or, we can use the intransitive, for instance to describe a library:

Questa è una biblioteca. Qui si leggono i libri.
This is a library. Books are read here.

As you can see, understanding reflexive verbs is not only vital for certain verbs, but also opens the door to advanced grammatical constructs!