Les verbes pronominaux: pronominal verbs in French

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What are pronominal verbs in French?

Pronominal verbs (les verbs pronominaux) are verbs that take a reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nous, vous, se). The reflexive pronoun always comes before the verb and corresponds to the subject.

Learn about the different types of pronominal verbs in French with Lingolia and master their conjugation, then put your knowledge to the test in the free exercises.


Hier je me suis promené en ville. Soudain je me suis arrêté. Je ne reconnaissais pas la rue. Oh non! Je m'étais perdu. Puis je me suis de nouveau souvenu du chemin.

Types of pronominal verbs in French

Pronominal verbs are always preceded by a reflexive pronoun that agrees with the subject.

There are different types of pronominal verbs in French:

Exclusively Pronominal Verbs

Some verbs are exclusively pronominal; i.e. they always take a reflexive pronoun.

se baignerto bathe
s’évanouirto faint
s’en allerto leave

Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs (les verbes pronominaux de sens réfléchi) are verbs where the subject and object are one and the same; the verb reflects back on the person(s) performing it.

se leverto get (yourself) up
s’inscrireto register (yourself)
se coifferto do your hair

Reciprocal Verbs

Reciprocal verbs (les verbes pronominaux de sens réciproque) always take a plural subject; they express something two or more people do with/for/to each other.

se parlerto talk to each other
se téléphonerto call each other
se rencontrerto meet each other

Passive Pronominal Verbs

We can use certain verbs with the reflexive pronoun se to give them a passive meaning (les verbes pronominaux de sens passif).

se prononcerto be pronounced
se préparerto be prepared
se traduireto be translated

How to conjugate pronominal verbs in French

Pronominal verbs always take a reflexive pronoun that corresponds to the subject of the sentence:

Personal Pronoun je tu il/elle/on nous vous ils/elles
Reflexive Pronoun me te se nous vous se

Notes on Conjugation

When conjugating pronominal verbs, we have to remember the following things:

  • The reflexive pronoun comes after the personal pronoun and before the conjugated form of the verb. As shown in the table above, the reflexive pronoun always matches the personal pronoun.
    Je me suis promené en ville.I went walking in town.
  • If the verb begins with a vowel, we leave off the e from me/te/se and join the reflexive pronoun and the verb with an apostrophe. This is known as elision.
    Tu t’es promené en ville.You went walking in town.
  • In negative sentences, ne comes before the reflexive pronoun, while the second part of the negation (pas) comes after the conjugated verb.
    Je ne me suis pas promené en ville.I didn’t go walking in town.

See the tables below for model conjugations of pronominal verbs. To conjugate any French verb, go to our verb conjugator.

Person Example
1st person singular (I) je me laveI wash (myself)
2nd person singular (you) tu te lavesyou wash (yourself)
3rd person singular (he/she/it) il se lavehe washes (himself)
1st person plural (we) nous nous lavonswe wash (ourselves)
2nd person plural (you) vous vous lavezyou wash (yourself)
3rd person plural (they) ils se laventthey wash (themselves)
  • Pronominal verbs in all tenses:
Tense Example
Présent je me laveI wash (myself)
Passé composé je me suis lavéI washed (myself)
Imparfait je me lavaisI washed/was washing (myself)
Plus-que-parfait je m’étais lavéI had washed (myself)
Futur proche je vais me laverI’m going to wash (myself)
Futur simple je me laveraiI will wash (myself)

Pronominal verbs and the participe passé

Pronominal verbs always form the passé composé with the auxiliary être + past participle.

The participe passé of pronominal verbs generally agrees with the subject.

Nous nous sommes levés très tôt.We got up very early.
plural -s added to the past participle to match the plural subject (nous)

However, the participe passé does not agree with the subject if the verb is followed by a direct object.

Elle s’est lavé les mains.She washed her hands.
direct object: les mains
but: Elle s’est lavée.
no direct object

Remember: the past participle never agrees with an indirect object.

Marie et Laurent se sont téléphoné.Marie and Laurent called each other on the phone.
indirect object: téléphoner à qui ?

The participe passé does not agree with the subject of reciprocal verbs: se téléphonerto phone each other, se parlerto talk to each other, se mentirto lie to each other, se plaire (complaire/déplaire)to like each other, se sourireto smile at each other, se rireto laugh at each other, se nuireto hurt each other, se succéderto succeed each other, se suffireto be enough, se ressemblerto look like each other, s’en vouloirto be annoyed with each other.

se rendre compte

Although it is pronominal, the participle of the verb se rendre compte (to realise) does not agree with the subject of the sentence. This is because the word compte acts as a direct object (se rendre quoi? → compte).

Elle s’est rendu compte de son erreur.She realised her mistake.