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German Reflexive Pronouns: What They Are And How to Use Them

German reflexive pronouns are a topic that may seem confusing and overwhelming at first, but it’s not that bad once you break it down. It’s also extremely important to master. Many German verbs use reflexive pronouns, and you need to learn those and understand how they work. Otherwise, how are you going to explain to your German roommate that you’re going to take a shower? Or that you’re looking forward to the road trip you planned?

This guide covers everything you need to know about German reflexive pronouns and verbs. So, if you want to improve your German, keep reading!

What Are German Reflexive Pronouns?

If you’ve been learning German for some time now, chances are that you’ve come across words like “sich” or “mich.” These are German reflexive pronouns. But what does that mean?

It’s simple. Reflexive pronouns are used to refer back to the subject of the sentence. Take a look at this English sentence, for example:

  • Could you introduce yourself, please?

The subject of the sentence is the person controlling the verb (i.e., doing the introducing in this case). In the above sentence, the subject is “you.”

The reflexive pronoun in the example sentence is “yourself,” which refers back to the subject (“you”).

Simply put, reflexive pronouns are usually used to signify that the subject of the sentence is doing something, either themselves or to themselves. This is the case in both English and German. However, reflexive pronouns are much more commonly used in German. This is why it’s so important to learn about them.

German Reflexive Pronouns: Forms

Now that you know what purpose German reflexive pronouns serve, it’s time to look at what they actually are. I already mentioned “sich” and “mich.” However, there are a couple more forms that you need to be aware of.

One important thing to remember is that reflexive pronouns can come in either the accusative or the dative case. You will need to learn the forms for both cases.

German Reflexive Pronouns in Accusative


Person Reflexive Pronoun
1. ich mich
2. du dich
3. er/sie/es sich


Person Reflexive Pronoun
1. wir uns
2. ihr euch
3. sie/Sie sich

German Reflexive Pronouns in Dative


Person Reflexive Pronoun
1. ich mir
2. du dir
3. er/sie/es sich


Person Reflexive Pronoun
1. wir uns
2. ihr euch
3. sie/Sie sich

German Reflexive Verbs: What Are They?

Once you’ve learned the different forms of German reflexive pronouns, it’s time to get into the meat of this topic – and that’s reflexive verbs.

In German, there are two types of verbs that use reflexive pronouns. First, you have verbs that always use a reflexive pronoun. You cannot ever correctly use these verbs without including the proper reflexive pronoun.

English has reflexive verbs like this, too. For example, the verb “busy oneself.”

  • I busy myself with household chores whenever I feel anxious.

However, there are also verbs that only sometimes come with a reflexive pronoun. In this case, the object of the sentence (the recipient of the action of the verb) can either be the subject or someone/something completely different. If the object is the same as the subject, you would use a reflexive pronoun. If it’s someone/something else, you would simply refer to that person/thing.

This may sound a little confusing, but it’s actually relatively simple. Take a look at this English example:

  • I will wash myself.
  • I will wash the dishes.

In the first sentence, the subject (“I”) will be the person getting washed. Therefore, a reflexive pronoun should be used (“myself”).

However, in the second sentence, the object getting washed is “the dishes.” So, there is no need to use a reflexive pronoun.

The same principle applies to the German language, too. Some verbs always take a reflexive pronoun, while some only require it sometimes.

An example of an “occasional reflexive pronoun” would be the verb “(sich) widersprechen” (= “to contradict someone/something/oneself”).

Commonly Used German Reflexive Verbs

Unfortunately, not all German reflexive verbs are reflexive in English – and not all English reflexive verbs are reflexive in German. This is the part where you will have to memorize some new words. Much like when you’re learning adjective endings or prepositions, there is no avoiding this one – you’ll have to study these and commit them to memory as best as you can.

Now, let’s take a look at some popular verbs that require you to use German reflexive pronouns.

Reflexive Verbs in German: Accusative

sich anmelden to register
sich anziehen to dress oneself
sich beeilen to hurry
sich befinden to be located
sich duschen to shower
sich fragen to ask oneself/wonder
sich freuen to look forward to
sich fühlen to feel
sich interessieren to be interested in
sich konzentrieren to concentrate
sich rasieren to shave
sich treffen to meet
sich trennen von to separate from
sich verlieben to fall in love
sich vorstellen to introduce oneself

Example sentences:

  • Ich freue mich darauf, dich zu sehen. (I am looking forward to seeing you.)
  • Er interessierst sich für Kunst. (He is interested in art.)
  • Treffen wir uns heute Abend? (Are we meeting up this evening?)
  • Ich dusche mich jeden Tag. (I shower every day.)

Reflexive Verbs in German: Dative

sich etwas anziehen to put something on
sich etwas bürsten to brush something
sich etwas vorstellen to imagine something
sich wehtun to hurt oneself
sich etwas wünschen to wish for something
sich Zeit nehmen to take time (for oneself)

Example sentences:

  • Ich bürste mir die Haare mit einer Haarbürste. (I brush my hair with a hairbrush.)
  • Könntest du dir etwas anziehen? (Could you put some clothes on?)

As you can see, some verbs can take either dative or accusative German reflexive pronouns. If you’d like to learn more about why that is, watch this helpful video by Learn German with Anja:

German Reflexive Pronouns: Useful Tips and Tricks

So far, we’ve covered all the basics you need to know to understand German reflexive pronouns and verbs. However, there are still some little things you need to keep in mind if you truly want to master this topic.

German Reflexive Verbs in Perfect Tenses

Much like in English, German has the present perfect, the past perfect, and the future perfect tense. When you use one of these tenses, you need to know which auxiliary (helping) verb goes with each main verb. Some verbs take “sein,” while others take “haben.”

So, which auxiliary verb do German reflexive verbs use? It’s simple – these verbs always take “haben.”

Example sentences:

  • Sie haben sich erkältet. (They have caught a cold.)
  • Du hast dich vorgestellt. (You have introduced yourself.)

Tip: Need to refresh your knowledge of German tenses? This article might be useful – German Tenses: When and How to Use Them.

German Reflexive Pronouns: Word Order

One of the things that many German learners struggle with the most is word order in a sentence. There are many rules in the German language that you have to follow when it comes to sentence structure. Naturally, there are even rules for the placement of German reflexive pronouns. Luckily, these aren’t too difficult.

If we’re talking about a simple, main clause (“Hauptsatz”), the general sentence pattern is subject + verb + reflexive pronoun. For example:

  • Maria freuet sich auf den Sommer. (Maria is looking forward to the summer.)

In more broad terms, the reflexive pronoun usually comes right after the verb or the subject. The following sentences are also grammatically correct:

  • Auf den Sommer freuet sich Maria.
  • Auf den Sommer freuet Maria sich.

But what about if you have a subordinate clause?

In this case, the German reflexive pronoun comes right after the conjunciton or the subject. For example, either of these two options is acceptable:

  • Ich weiß nicht, ob sich Maria wirklich darauf freuet. (I don’t know if Maria is really looking forward to it.)
  • Ich weiß nicht, ob Maria sich wirklich darauf freuet.

German Reflexive Pronouns: In summary

German reflexive pronouns may seem scary, but if you’re patient and willing to learn, you will get the hang of them soon enough. It’s important to understand what they are, how they work, and that not all reflexive verbs in English are reflexive in German, too (and vice versa).

Once you understand the basic principle of this topic, all you have to do is memorize some of the most commonly used German reflexive verbs. After that, you’re basically done – just remember to keep coming back to this topic every now and then. After all, practice makes perfect! And you wouldn’t want to forget all that you’ve learned, right?

If you’re ever in doubt or need a refresher, feel free to come back to this guide. Or make your own guide or flashcards, if that’s more your speed!

Learn more

Still hungry for some more German grammar? Why not check out one of our other helpful articles? Here’s where you can start:

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