Unit 5: Prepositions, Reflexives

5. Reflexive Verbs

There are some verbs in German that are always used with a reflexive pronoun and it may not be appropriate to translate that pronoun literally. Such verbs are indicated in dictionaries with a “sich” or “v.r.,” or “refl.” which means that the verb is used with a reflexive pronoun. Familiarize yourself with how your dictionary describes these two common examples: sich + interessieren + für (to be interested in) and sich + erinnern + an (to remember).

Die Studenten interessieren sich für die Musik.
The students are interested in music.

Ich erinnere mich immer an den Geburtstag meiner Mutter.
I always remember my mother’s birthday.

Note that many German verbs are only sometimes used reflexively, and then they have slightly different meanings accordingly. One example is anziehen, as demonstrated in the preceding section. German-English dictionaries will usually give translations of the reflexive meanings separately from the non-reflexive meanings of these verbs. Watch out for abbreviations such as refl. in your dictionary, and remember in any case that the German reflexive pronoun in the sentence will often not correspond to an English word – it is instead primarily a signal that the German verb is being used reflexively.


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A Foundation Course in Reading German by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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