Reflexive Verbs in Russian

Reflexive Verbs in Russian
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In this lesson, you will learn everything you need to know about Reflexive Verbs in Russian.

The lesson is divided into four parts:

  1. What Reflexive Verbs are
  2. How to form and identify Reflexive Verbs
  3. Common uses of Reflexive Verbs
  4. 100 Most Common Reflexive Verbs

If there is any specific part of the lesson you would like to study first, you can go straight to that subject by clicking on the above titles.

What are Reflexive Verbs?

Reflexive verbs are verbs that are used to talk about things that ‘you do to yourself’. In other words, the person who performs the action is the same as the one who is affected by it.

It is as if the subject of the sentence was also the direct object.

The English language doesn’t have reflexive verbs, but it has some equivalents.

Let’s compare some of these equivalents with Russian reflexive verbs and try to understand when reflexive verbs should be used.

Russian Reflexive Verbs vs. English Reflexive Pronouns

In English, we use reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself, etc.) in many situations in which we would use reflexive verbs in Russian.

For example:

  • Мэри порезалась.
  • (Mary cut herself)
  • Ты должен подготовиться.
  • (You must prepare yourself)
  • Ты ушибся?
  • (Did you hurt yourself?)

In all of the above examples, the person who performs the action is also the one who suffers it. In English, we express this meaning by using reflexive pronouns, while, in Russian, we use reflexive verbs for that.

To help you better understand what reflexive verbs are, let’s compare them with non-reflexive ones:

  • Мэри порезала торт.
  • (Mary cut the cake)
  • Мэри порезалась.
  • (Mary cut herself)

In the first example, Mary only performed the action. She didn’t suffer it. It was ‘the cake’ that suffered the action.

In the second example, however, not only did Mary perform the action, but she also suffered it. She is the one who cut and she is the one who got cut.

To show that in Russian, we used the reflexive verb порезалась, while, in English, we used the reflexive pronoun herself.

Russian Reflexive Verbs vs. ‘Get’

Another equivalent of Russian reflexive verbs in English is phrases with the verb get, especially when we talk about a change of state. For example:

  • Я оделся.
  • (I got dressed)
  • Я собираюсь.
  • (I am getting ready)
  • Она переоделась.
  • (She got changed)

In all of the above sentences, there isn’t an object that suffers the action. The action affects the person who performs it.

In English, we expressed this idea by using the verb get, while, in Russian, we used reflexive verbs.

Russian Reflexive Verbs vs. English Intransitive Verbs

In English, we sometimes use intransitive verbs to describe a situation in which a reflexive verb would be used in Russian.

Note that in such cases the verb is never followed by a direct object. In other words, there isn’t any object that is affected by the action.

For example:

  • Я проснулся.
  • (I woke up)
  • Он смеялся.
  • (He was laughing)
  • Мы встречаемся каждый день.
  • (We meet every day)
  • Мы готовимся к работе.
  • (We are preparing for work)

How to form and identify Reflexive Verbs

Now that you know what Russian reflexive verbs are, let’s take a look at how we can identify them.

Russian reflexive verbs end in СЯ or СЬ.

СЯ comes after consonants. For example:

  • готовиться (to prepare)
  • Фильм начался (The movie started)
  • Он боится (He’s afraid)

And СЬ comes after vowels:

  • развестись (to get divorced)
  • Я боюсь (I’m afraid)
  • Она проснулась (She woke up)

In some cases, it’s possible to form reflexive verbs by adding the endings СЯ or СЬ to non-reflexive ones.

You just need to add the ending СЯ to non-reflexive verbs that end in a consonant, and the ending СЬ to verbs that end in a vowel. For example:

  • готовить - готовиться (to prepare)
  • Я готовлю проект.
  • (I’m preparing a project)
  • Я готовлюсь к работе.
  • (I’m preparing for work)
  • мыть - мыться (to wash)
  • Я мою машину.
  • (I’m washing my car)
  • Я моюсь.
  • (I’m washing [myself])
  • вернуть - вернуться (to return)
  • Он вернул книги.
  • (He returned the books)
  • Он вернулся домой.
  • (He returned home)

Common uses of Reflexive Verbs

Now that you know what Russian reflexive verbs are and how to identify and form them, let’s take a look at some other common situations in which they are used.

Expressing reciprocal or joint action with reflexive verbs

When two or more people do something together, or to each other, we often use reflexive verbs. For example:

  • Мы познакомились два года назад.
  • (We met two years ago)
  • Они часто ссорятся.
  • (They often argue)
  • Они целуются.
  • (They are kissing)

Note that in the above sentences, the subject is used in the plural.

Another way to build a sentence with a reflexive verb is to use the preposition С (with) followed by the person who also takes part in the action. For example:

  • Он поругался с женой.
  • (He fought with his wife)
  • Пётр познакомился с девушкой.
  • (Peter met a girl)
  • Учитель поздоровался с учениками.
  • (The teacher greeted the students)

Both types of sentences are correct and common.

Note that, after the preposition С, the nouns женой, девушкой and учениками are in the Instrumental Case. If you don’t know yet how to use the Instrumental Case in Russian, you can check out our complete lesson about this subject clicking here.

Talking about feelings with reflexive verbs

Another common situation in which we use reflexive verbs is to talk about someone’s feelings or opinions. For example:

  • Я боюсь.
  • (I’m afraid)
  • Он гордится своей дочерью.
  • (He is proud of his daughter)
  • Я беспокоюсь о работе.
  • (I am worried about my job)
  • Он сомневается в этом.
  • (He doubts it)
  • Мне кажется это невозможным.
  • (It seems impossible to me)
  • Она очень удивилась.
  • (She was very surprised)

100 Most Common Reflexive Verbs

Here is a list of 100 very common reflexive verbs in Russian to boost your vocabulary.

Note that you can click on all the words to see their meanings, conjugations and extra examples in our dictionary.

To easily memorize all these 100 verbs, I recommend that you create a flashcard for each of these verbs, so you can review them later.

And that’s all!

Now you know what Russian reflexive verbs are, how to identify and form them, common situations in which they are used and the 100 most common reflexive verbs.

I hope everything got clear!