Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are similar to direct object pronouns, except in the third person singular and plural ("si").

mi guardo allo specchio

I look at myself in the mirror

ti guardi allo specchio

you look at yourself in the mirror

si guarda allo specchio

s/he looks at her/himself in the mirror

ci guardiamo allo specchio

we look at ourselves in the mirror

vi guardate allo specchio

you look at yourselves in the mirror

si guardano allo specchio

they look at themselves in the mirror

These pronouns immediately precede the verb to which they refer, except when used with the past participle (without auxiliary verb), the infinitive, the gerund and the imperative. In that case, the pronoun is attached to the end of the verb form. Notice that the infinitive loses the final "e".

Alzàtosi, si féce la barba.  

Once he got up, he shaved.

Domani dobbiamo alzarci presto.

Tomorrow we'll have to get up early.

Si è tagliato rasàndosi.  

He cut himself while shaving.


Sit down!

Reflexive pronouns are used with many verbs, changing their meaning in the following way:

- Truly reflexive (the action's object is the same as the subject). 
- Reciprocal (with plural forms).
- Idiomatic (no real reflexive or reciprocal meaning). Sometimes the reflexive pronoun changes the meaning radically.

Some verbs are used exclusively with reflexive pronouns. Their meaning is often idiomatic. For a partial list of such verbs, see Verbs Used Mainly in the Reflexive Form.


With reflexive pronoun

English Equivalent

Without reflexive pronoun

English equivalent

Mi lavo

I wash myself 

Lavo i piatti

I wash the dishes

Ci conosciamo

We know each other

Conosciamo sua sorella

We know her sister

Vi sentite male

You don't feel well

Sentite un rumore

You hear a noise

Si è svegliato alle otto

He woke up at eight

Ha svegliato tutti

He woke everybody up

Comportati bene!

Behave yourself!

Cosa comporta?

What does it involve?

Mi sono imbattuto in Gino

I ran into Gino

[not used]


Si vergognano

They are ashamed

[not used]


Verbs combined with reflexive pronouns require the auxiliary "essere" in the past tense; therefore the past participle must always agree with the subject. Compare the use of similar verbs with and without reflexive pronouns.

With reflexive pronoun

English Equivalent

Without reflexive pronoun

English equivalent

Ti sei pettinato

You combed your hair

Hai pettinato la bambina

You combed the girl's hair

Carla si è lavata i capelli

Carla washed her hair

Ha lavato la macchina

She washed her car

Si sono conosciuti a Roma

They met in Rome

Hanno conosciuto Carlo a Roma

They met Carlo in Rome

With potere (can), dovere (must, have to), volere (want), the choice of the auxiliary depends on the position of the pronoun:
- when the pronoun precedes the modal verb, "essere" is used;
- when the pronoun follows the infinitive of the main verb, "avere" is used.

Pronoun before modal verb

Pronoun after infinitive of main verb

Englih equivalent

Maria si è dovuta alzare

Maria ha dovuto alzarsi

Maria had to get up

Ti sei voluta alzare

Hai voluto alzarti

You wanted to get up

Carla si è potuta riposare

Carla ha potuto riposarsi

Carla has been able to rest

Verb forms requiring a reflexive pronoun can be constructed without one if combined with a causative verb (fare, lasciare, etc.).

With causative verb

English Equivalent

Without causative verb

English equivalent

Ho fatto pentire Gianni di avérmi trattato male

I made Gianni sorry to mistreat me

Gianni si è pentito di avermi trattato male

Gianni was sorry for misteating me

Hanno fatto accòrgere Dario dell'errore

They made Dario aware of his mistake

Dario si è accòrto dell'errore

Dario realized his mistake