Intermediate #6 - Reflexive Verbs (Repetition)

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Markus: Hur kommer det sig att man alltid ska behöva lära sig massa onödigt?
Why is it, that you always have to learn a lot of unnecessary things?
Anders: Ja, man förväntar sig ju att det man lär sig har någonting med ämnet man pluggar att göra.
Yeah, you do expect that what you learn has something to do with the subject you study.
Markus: Precis, nu måste vi ta någon kurs i drejning bara för att samla poäng.
Right, now we have to take some pottery class just to collect points.
Anders: Mm.
Markus: Man kanske skulle bryta sig in i arkivet och bara ge sig själv tillräckligt med poäng?
Maybe one should break into the archive and just give oneself enough points?
Anders: Du kan ju bara vägra att ta kursen. Fast då får du nog höra ett och annat från din farsa.
You could just refrain from taking the class. But then you'll hear one or two things from your dad.
bryta sig in
break in
en massa
a lot, a bunch
förvänta sig
komma sig
can be
lära sig

Reflexive verbs

Verbs that point back to the one performing a task are called reflexive verbs. Examples for this type of verb are “He washes himself”. He’s not washing Haley or Jim or his dog but only himself. You notice this when you see the little word sig (spoken sej). This pronoun is used for he, she, and it. Han, Hon, and det. All other persons use their corresponding object pronoun like mig, me, and dig, you.

Group 1

The first group contain the words that are ALWAYS reflexive. They cannot stand without this pronoun because the subject cannot perform this task on anyone else.

De har förlovat sig.
They’ve got engaged.

Paret har förälskat sig.
The couple has fallen in love.

förlova sig
get engaged
förälska sig
fall in love
känna sig
missta sig
be mistaken
se sig om
look around
skynda sig
uppföra sig
vila upp sig
rest, recover, recreate, relax

Group 2

This second group contains the verbs that really aren’t reflexive at all but when the subject is doing them to himself they automatically become reflexive and the reflexive pronoun has to be used.

Han tvättade hunden.
He washed the dog.

Han tvättar sig.
He washes (himself).

klä om sig
klä på sig
dress oneself
klä sig
dress oneself
lägga sig
lie down, recline, settle, go to bed
raka sig
shave oneself
röra sig
sätta sig
sit down
tvätta sig
wash oneself

Language differences

Both Swedish and English have reflexive verbs, as do a bunch of other langauges, but mostly they aren’t the same. This is just a matter of linguistic evolution and has to be learned.

Reflexive in Swedish

bryta sig in
break in
färga av sig
rub off
gifta sig
ha på sig
komma sig
can be
lära sig
ta av sig
put off, undress
ta på sig
dress, put on
vänta sig

Reflexive in English

There really are no verbs in English that are reflexive only. All belong to the second group and for words like to wash, to shave, and to dress the reflexive pronoun is mostly omitted.