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Reflexive Pronouns

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Accusative reflexive pronouns

The accusative reflexive pronouns are so named because they occur where the accusative case is required in the sentence. The accusative case is used:

1. to identify direct objects
2. following accusative prepositions
3. following accusative-dative prepositions

The accusative reflexive pronoun is used when that pronoun and the subject of the sentence are the same person. A personal pronoun is used when that pronoun and the subject of the sentence are different persons. For example:

same person                          I hated myself for doing that.
different person
                     I hated her for doing that.

German works similarly:

same person                         Ich frage mich warum.              I ask myself why.
different person
                   Ich frage sie warum.                  I ask her why.

Let’s look at all the accusative reflexive pronouns and compare them with their personal-pronoun counterparts.

nominative                 accusative personal                     accusative reflexive
ich                                mich                                             mich                               myself
du                                dich                                              dich                                yourself
er                                 ihn                                                sich                                  himself

sie                                sie                                                 sich                                  herself
es                                 es                                                  sich                                   itself
wir                              uns                                                uns                                   ourselves
ihr                               euch                                              euch                                 yourselves
Sie                              Sie                                                  sich                      yourself, yourselves
sie                              sie                                                   sich                               themselves

If the subject of a sentence is wer or was, their accusative reflexive pronoun will be sich. This is also true of all singular or plural nouns. In sentences, the reflexive pronouns occur after the conjugated verb or after a preposition. For example:

direct object                            Ärgere dich nicht!                  Don’t get angry.
accusative preposition
          Sie kaufte etwas für sich.      She bought something for herself.

accusative-dative preposition       Ich denke nur an mich selbst.    I only think about myself.
         (accusative case)

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Dative reflexive pronouns

Dative reflexive pronouns function like the accusative reflexive pronouns, but they are used where the dative case is required:

1. to identify indirect objects
2. to identify objects of dative verbs
3. following dative prepositions
4. following accusative-dative prepositions

The dative reflexive pronoun is used when that pronoun and the subject of the sentence are the same person. A personal pronoun is used when that pronoun and the subject of the sentence are different persons. For example:

same person            Ich kaufte mir einen neuen Gürtel.        I bought myself a new belt.
different person
      Ich kaufte ihm einen neuen Gürtel.        I bought him a new belt.

As you can see from the preceding example, the dative reflexive pronoun mir happens to be the same as the dative personal pronoun mir. This occurs with other pronouns as well. Let’s look at all the dative reflexive pronouns and compare them with their personal-pronoun counterparts.

nominative                       dative personal                 dative reflexive
ich                                     mir                                       mir                             myself
du                                     dir                                        dir                              yourself
er                                      ihm                                       sich                             himself
sie                                     ihr                                         sich                             herself
es                                      ihm                                        sich                            itself
wir                                   uns                                         uns                             ourselves
ihr                                    euch                                       euch                            yourselves
Sie                                    Ihnen                                     sich                      yourself, yourselves
sie                                    ihnen                                     sich                              themselves

If the subject of a sentence is wer or was, the dative reflexive pronoun will be sich. This is also true of all singular or plural nouns. In sentences, the reflexive pronouns occur after the conjugated verb or after a preposition. For example:

indirect object     Kauft ihr euch einen neuen Wagen?      Are you buying yourselves  new car?
dative verb         
Sie trauen sich diese Arbeit zu.             They entrust themselves with this job.
dative preposition
    Ich habe kein Geld bei mir.             I don’t have any money on me.
accusative-dative
preposition  Ich verberge das Geschenk hinter mir. I hide the gift behind me.
(dative case)


Reflexive verbs

German reflexive verbs are always used with reflexive pronouns to achieve their full meaning. It’s like the English verb enjoy oneself. Without the reflexive pronoun or a direct object, the verb makes no sense. For example:
If someone asks, “Did you have fun at the party?” you cannot reply, “Yes, I really enjoyed.”
To achieve the complete meaning of the verb, the reflexive must be added: Yes, I really enjoyed myself.”

This occurs with many German verbs. They are used together with reflexive pronouns to achieve their full meaning. Here are a few commonly used reflexive verbs:

sich befinden                                          be located
sich benehmen                                       behave, conduct oneself
sich erholen                                            recover
sich erinnern                                          remember
sich erkälten                                          catch cold
sich fragen                                             wonder (ask oneself)
sich interessieren                                   be interested (interest oneself)
sich irren                                                be mistaken
sich unterhalten                                     converse

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