German for Music Lovers

©A.Campitelli, Greensboro, North Carolina, 1999-2001

Reflexive Pronouns & Reflexive Verbs

German uses the reflexive construction much more commonly than English.

In a reflexive construction, the subject is also the object or indirect object of the verb.

Subject is the object: Ich wasche mich.

Subject is the indirect object: Ich kaufe mir Schokolade.

We do not need to learn additional pronouns for ich, du, wir, and ihr. However, consider these third-person sentences:

Er kauft ihm Schokolade.

Er kauft sich Schokolade.

In the first sentence, "he" is buying chocolate for "him," (another person). In the second, "he" is buying chocolate for "himself."

The third-person reflexive pronoun in German is "sich." It's a great pronoun for English speakers, because it is masculine, feminine, neuter and plural, accusative and dative.

Remember, the formal you, "Sie," has the same form as "they"; therefore, its reflexive is also "sich" (not capitalized).


Reflexive Pronouns: ich & du
Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject refers to itself. With ich and du, you must be mindful of the case your reflexive expression requires, because the pronouns are different in the accusative and dative cases.
Reflexive Pronouns: third person, plurals & Sie

With wir & ihr, case is not a problem, because their dative & accusative forms are the same.
er, sie (feminine), es, sie (plural), Sie


Ich wasche mich.
I am getting washed, I am washing myself.

Kind, du sollst dich waschen.
Child, you should wash youself.

Verbs like "waschen" and "kaufen" can be used reflexively or not. Use the accusative reflexive pronoun when there is no other object in the sentence besides the reflexive object.

Ich kaufe mir Schokolade.
I am buying myself some chocolate.

Ich putze mir die Zähne.
I'm brushing my teeth.

Kind, du mußt dir das Gesicht noch waschen.
Child, you still must wash your face.

Use the dative reflexive when there is a direct object of the verb.

Es handelt sich hier um Ihre Gesundheit.
This is a matter of your health.

Some verb constructions like "sich handeln um" are interesting idioms for us to memorize.

Ein Tag am Meer (Die Fantastischen Vier)

In this song you will find several verbs which are used reflexively. Some of them also have different meanings when used without a reflexive. Some of the reflexive constructions are idiomatic.

Print this page or do the exercise on a separate sheet of paper.

Read the following table of verbs from the song. Look them up and write in the English meaning (Bedeuting) in the space next to it. In the space under it, write the sentence in the song in which the verb appears, and try to figure out what it means.

Verbum Bedeutung
sich ändern
sich irgendwo auskennen
sich bewegen
sich drehen um
sich fühlen
sich nehmen
von sich nehmen
bei sich sein


For more on Reflexive Verbs, see

Reflexive Verben mit Akkusativ und Dativ
Reflexive Verbenliste mit Übungen

© A.Campitelli, 1999-2001