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Getting personal with the reflexive

This is the continuation of the lesson about the basics of reflexive verbs.

With a true reflexive verb, you need the reflexive to make yourself understood properly, but when it's not a direct reflexive, you can also leave it out (usually) and still get your meaning across. Check out the rules for this in the above-mentioned lesson.

Let's say I want to watch a movie on TV tonight. It would be common to say:

Mi guarderò un bel film stasera (I'm going to watch a nice movie tonight). It's not directly reflexive, because we have "the film" as a direct object (it's not even a body part!) but the sentence is constructed the same way as a reflexive one, and has that personal feel to it (it's all about me!).

 

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If it were truly reflexive, I would be looking at myself in the mirror instead of the movie: guardarsi  (to look at oneself)

Mi guardo allo specchio (I look at myself in the mirror). 

 

I could also just as well say (and it would be correct):

Guarderò un bel film stasera. (I'm going to watch a nice movie tonight).

 

Without the added pronoun, the sentence is more neutral, less personal, and there's less emphasis on it being about me. But it's perfectly fine. And whether a verb is directly or indirectly reflexive is not going to change our lives a whole lot. It's just something you might wonder about. The important thing is to know how to use reflexive verbs and to get used to hearing (and understanding) them.

 

Here are a few more everyday examples that we think of as being reflexive, but which also contain a direct object. What's important to note is that in English, we use a possessive pronoun (I wash my hands) after a transitive verb. Italian uses a reflexive pronoun to indicate the person, but it goes together with the verb, not the noun.  The following examples are typical, and so it would be wise to practice them in different conjugations.

Vado a lavarmi i denti  (I'm going to brush my teeth).

 

Here we have the conjugated verb andare before lavare (with the preposition a [to]), so lavare is in the infinitive with the appropriate reflexive pronoun (mi [to me]) attached to it.

 

Ci laviamo le mani prima di mangiare (We wash our hands before eating).

 

Here we used ci as the reflexive pronoun. Let's not forget that ci has a lot of uses, which you can read about in other lessons

 

Mi metto una maglia, fa freschino (I'll put a sweater on. It's chilly).

 

Mettere is an interesting verb (with an interesting reflexive version). Check out what Marika has to say about it. 

Mettere vuol dire collocare, posizionare un oggetto in un posto specifico.

"To put" means "to situate," "to position" an object in a specific place.

Captions 7-8, Marika spiega Il Verbo Mettere - Part 1

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Here is a partial list of some other useful, everyday reflexive verbs: 

addormentarsi (to fall asleep)

innamorarsi (to fall in love)

ammalarsi (to fall ill)

muoversi (to move)

spostarsi (to shift, to move)

 

These verbs are intransitive in English, they don't have anything to do with specific body parts, and they aren't used in a reflexive way in English. So they may be tricky to immediately grasp.

 

See if this process can help you:

Let's take the example of spostarsi.

Does the verb have a non-reflexive form? Let's see: spostare. I look it up. spostare.

Hint: A dictionary will usually give you the reflexive form of the verb, too, if it exists. Just keep looking down the list of definitions or translations. 

OK, so spostare exists in a non-reflexive (transitive) form. 

La sposto subito.

I'll move it right away.

Caption 46, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 3

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The reflexive form means, "I move myself." In English we just say "I move." We just need to remember that we need the reflexive in Italian to say that. But if I visualize it, I can see myself moving myself over a bit, so someone can fit into a space, for instance. 

 

Aside: The person ready to move his car in the previous example could have used the reflexive, especially if he had been in the car at the time. He could have said, Mi sposto subito (I'll move (out of the way) right away).

I can also look up the verb spostarsi on the Yabla videos page:

Basta semplicemente spostarsi di qualche metro.

All one has to do is simply move a few meters.

Caption 57, Meraviglie EP. 6 - Part 12

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The cool thing about the search window is that you can use whatever conjugation you want. You may or may not get a hit, but a pop-down menu will give you suggestions as to what's available. Sometimes it's handy to begin with the infinitive, then some conjugations. Most of these hits are real-life usages that help give you an idea of how a verb is used.  

 

So my next move is to conjugate the reflexive verb. Creating a sentence that makes sense might be more fun than a simple conjugation. Go ahead and consult the conjugation chart supplied with verbs in WordReference: spostarsi

Mi sposto (I'll move over).

Ti puoi spostare (Could you move over)?

Lui non si sposta (he won't move over)!

 

Looking up sposto also reveals the "remote" past tense of spostarespostò (the third person singular passato remoto):

Eh, tant'è vero che poi, pensa Marika, che il centro politico della città si spostò dai Fori Romani ai Fori Imperiali.

Yeah, so much so, that then, just think, Marika, the political center of the city moved from the Roman Forums to the Imperial Forums.

Captions 38-39, Marika e Daniela Il Foro Romano

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Learning suggestion:

Try to put your daily routine into words, using the dictionary (and the afore-mentioned online resources) if necessary. Maybe your routine goes something like this:

 

Ti svegli alle 6 di mattina ma ti addormenti di nuovo e quindi ti alzi alle sei e mezza. Ti fai un buon caffè e poi ti fai la docciati lavi i denti, e ti vesti. Se fa freddo ti metti una giacca prima di uscire.* Nascondi la chiave sotto lo zerbino. 

You wake up at 6 in the morning, but you fall asleep again so you get up at 6:30. You make yourself a nice cup of coffee and then you take a showeryou brush your teeth and you get dressed. If it’s cold, you put on a jacket before going out. You hide the key under the doormat. 

 

Try using different conjugations to practice them.

*More about what to wear in Marika spiega: L'abbigliamento - Part 1 of 2.

In this lesson, we used simple tenses. When we use the passato prossimo (constructed like the present perfect), we need more information, such as the fact that we need to use essere rather than avere! But we'll save this for another lesson. 

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