Meaning of verbs used reflexively
Many Italian verbs may be used reflexively in the plural to express reciprocal action.
Vi amate? – “Do you love each other?” (This could, theoretically, also be translated as ‘Do you love yourselves?’)
Ci vediamo spesso. – “We see each other often.”
Loro si ammirano. – “They admire each other.”
Si parlano? – “Do they speak to each other?”
The reflexive is often used for the passive (especially when inanimate objects are involved).
Le medicine si vendono all farmacia. – “Medicines are sold at the drugstore.”
Questi libri si pubblicano in Italia. – “These books are published in Italy.”
Come si pronunzia questa parola? – “How is this word pronounced?”
The reflexive may render the impersonal idea of “one,” “they,” “people,” “we,” “you.”
Come si dice “good morning” in italiano? – “How do you (does one) say good morning in Italian?”
Si dice che è molto ricca. – “They say she is very rich.” (=”It is said….”)
Quando si studia, s’impara. – “When one studies, one learns.”
The reflexive may mean “oneself” (“myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” etc.).
Mi lavo. – “I wash myself.”
The reflexive pronoun often need not or cannot be translated.
Si divertono. – “They have a good time (amuse themselves).”
Mi alzo. – “I get up.”
Come si chiama questo signore? — “What is this man’s name?”
As may be seen in the above examples, the reflexive pronoun precedes the verb in most cases. One exception to this has already been mentioned: it is attached to the end of the infinitive. A second exception is the imperative, where the reflexive pronoun is also attached to the end of the verb” Divertitevi! (“Have fun!“or “Have a good time!”), Alziamoci (“Let’s get up”), etc.
1 In present-day Italian, quello che or ciò che would be usual here.
| dir (=dire)
to play the learned man
they keep themselves (3d pl. tenere)
want (3d. pl., volere)
demanded, required (pp. volere)
| vuol (=vuole)