Reflexive Pronouns In German

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All pronouns play the function of replacing a previously mentioned noun or an already known noun in a sentence except for reflexive pronouns. These pronouns instead reflect the action of the user on themselves.

Content in this post
1. What are reflexive pronouns?
2. Types of reflexive pronouns in German
3. Position of reflexive pronouns in a German sentence
Table of content for reflexive pronouns in German

Reflexive Pronouns are a group of pronouns that are used to indicate that the action being performed is to oneself. Even though these pronouns are mainly used side by side reflexive verbs, they can be used with other verbs that are not reflexive. Hence, they become “manufactured” reflexive verbs.

Types of Reflexive Pronouns In German

Reflexive pronouns are of two categories namely;

  • Akkusativ reflexiv pronouns
  • Dativ reflexive pronouns

Akkusativ reflexive pronouns are used when the only object in the sentence is the same as the subject. For instance: “I am washing myself”; where “I” and “myself” refer to the same person with “myself” as the only object”.

Dativ reflexive pronouns are used when a known reflexive verb is used in a sentence that should have a direct object that is different from the subject or when one is the sole benefactor of what they are doing.

Just like ever, Dativ may take on the preposition “for” in English. For instance; “I am washing my hand (for) myself”. Here “for myself” and “I” refer to the same person where ”myself” is the reflexive object and “my hand“ is a direct object. What this means is that the reflexive pronoun in such sentences becomes a Dativ.

ichmichmir(for) myself
dichdichdir(for) yourself
er/sie/essichsich(for) him/her/it -self
wirunsuns(for) ourselves
ihreucheuch(for) yourselves
sie/Siesichsich(for) themselves/yourself*ves
Akkusativ and Dativ reflexive pronouns in German

**Note that English does not necessarily need the reflexive pronouns before it makes sense. Hence, “I am washing my hand (for) myself” can also be used as “I am wash my hand”. Study the pronouns below.

Position of Reflexive Pronouns In A German Sentence

In a Hauptsatz and a direct yes/no question, the reflexive verb is always in the third position i.e directly after the verb and the subject respectively while in a question word questions, it stays in the fourth position.

For Nebensatz and an indirect question, it is placed in the second position i.e directly after a subordinate conjunction and question word. For example;

1. Ich stelle mich vor.
(I am introducing myself)
A. Stelle ich mich vor?
(am I introducing myself)

B. Warum stelle ich mich vor?
(why am I introducing myself)
2. Du kannst meine Hände nicht schütteln, weil du dir deine Hände nicht gewaschen hast.
(you can’t give me a hand shake because you did not wash your hands)
Ich möchte wissen, warum du dir deine Hände nicht waschen kannst.
(I would like to know why you can’t wash your hands)
german sentences with reflexive Akkusativ and Dativ pronouns

Other categories of pronouns are; Personal pronouns, relative pronouns, possessive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, prepositional pronouns, etc.

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