French reflexive pronouns: An easy guide to Me Te Se Nous Vous Se

Celine Segueg

French reflexive pronouns are used whenever someone performs an action on themself. The equivalents in English generally end in -self, such as myself, yourself, or ourselves.

In French, the third-person reflexive pronoun se is also often used when two or more people perform an action together, in contexts where in English you’d generally say one another or each other.

Today we’ll take a close look at all of the French reflexive pronouns, known as les pronoms réfléchis in French. We’ll start with a table of the reflexive pronouns, and then compare them within a full table of all the French personal pronouns.

To demonstrate their use, we’ll provide numerous examples where we use the reflexive pronouns for each of the grammatical persons in turn. We’ll pay close attention to the third-person reflexive pronoun se, since this one is unique among the French personal pronouns. We’ll conclude by listing the other forms that French reflexive pronouns may take, explaining the contexts where we choose these over the standard pronoms réfléchis.

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All the French reflexive pronouns

Before we go any further, let’s just get straight to the point. Here’s the full list of reflexive pronouns in French, organized by grammatical person.

French reflexive pronouns singular plural
first-person me, m’ nous
second-person te, t’ vous
third-person se, s’ se, s’


When they immediately precede a word that begins with a vowel sound, me, te, and se are contracted to m’, t’, and s’.

We know what you’re thinking… aren’t several of these the same as many of the other personal pronouns in French? You’re absolutely right!

In fact, we use the exact same first- and second-person plural pronouns, nous and vous, regardless of the grammatical role that they play. The first- and second-person singular pronouns, me and te, are also identical to the direct and indirect object pronouns. It’s really just in the third person that the reflexive pronouns are unique, as se in both singular and plural.

Take a look at this table where we show all of the personal pronouns in French to see where the different grammatical categories are the same and where they differ. Note that the pronouns where we list an option with an apostrophe are contracted with any subsequent word that starts with a vowel sound.

Subject pronouns Reflexive pronouns Direct object pronouns Indirect object pronouns Stressed pronouns
je, j’ me, m’ me, m’ (moi) me, m’ (moi) moi
tu te, t’ te, t’ (toi) te, t’ (toi) toi
il, elle, on se, s’ le, la, l’ lui lui, elle, soi
nous nous nous nous nous
vous vous vous vous vous
ils, elles se, s’ les leur eux, elles


Now that we’ve listed all of the reflexive pronouns in French, let’s see them in use. Keep in mind that we use reflexives a lot more in French than in English, so not all of the translations have an English equivalent.

  • Je m’appele Céline. – My name is Céline. – I call myself Céline.
  • Je me brosse les dents après chaque repas. – I brush my teeth after every meal.
  • Je me prépare pour aller au travail. – I get [myself] ready to go to work.
  • Je me demande si c’est une bonne idée. – I wonder if it’s a good idea.
  • Je m’arrache les ongles quand je suis nerveux. – I tear my nails out when I’m nervous.
  • Tu te réveilles toujours tôt. – You always wake [yourself] up early.
  • Tu t’endors souvent en classe. – You often fall asleep in class.
  • Tu te laves les mains avant de manger. – You wash your hands before eating.
  • Tu t’accroches trop à ton ex. – You’re too attached to your ex.
  • Tu te détends en écoutant de la musique. – You relax [yourself] by listening to music.
  • Il se rase tous les matins. – He shaves [himself] every morning.
  • Elle se maquille avant de sortir. – She puts on makeup [on herself] before going out.
  • On s’agenouille devant le roi. – We kneel [ourselves] before the king.
  • Il s’apprête à déménager à l’étranger. – He is getting [himself] ready to move abroad.
  • Elle se repose après le travail. – She rests [herself] after work.
  • Nous nous levons tôt pour faire du sport. – We get [ourselves] up early to exercise.
  • Nous nous préparons pour le voyage. – We are getting [ourselves] ready for the trip.
  • Nous nous amusons beaucoup à la fête. – We have [ourselves] a lot of fun at the party.
  • Nous nous retrouvons au café à midi. – We meet [each other] at the café at noon.
  • Nous nous promenons dans le parc le dimanche. – We walk in the park on Sundays.
  • Vous vous réveillez toujours à la même heure. – You always wake [yourselves] up at the same time.
  • Vous vous préparez pour la réunion. – You get [yourselves] ready for the meeting.
  • Vous vous souvenez de cette journée. – You remember that day.
  • Vous vous couchez trop tard. – You go to bed too late.
  • Vous vous amusez bien pendant les vacances. – You have [yourselves] a good time during the holidays.
  • Mes parents s’enervent quand je rentre tard. – My parents get mad when I come home late.
  • Elles se maquillent avant la fête. – They put on makeup [on themselves] before the party.
  • Ils se rencontrent chaque semaine. – They meet [each other] every week.
  • Elles se détendent en regardant la télévision. – They relax [themselves] by watching TV.
  • Les pigeons s’orientent avec le soleil. – Pigeons orient themselves with the sun

As you can tell from all the examples, the reflexive pronouns always match the subject. For English speakers it may sound odd to always include both, especially when we say nous nous or vous vous, but in French this is how we use them. We can’t omit them like you do in English.

Reflexive pronouns vs the other French personal pronouns

Given that so many of the personal pronouns are identical between grammatical categories, it’s easy to mix them up. Only the third-person pronouns are unique in each category, so this is the best grammatical person to use when trying to determine which personal pronoun you’re dealing with.

Let’s see a series of examples where we compare the use of all the third-person singular personal pronouns.

  • Reflexive pronoun (se): Mon frère habite seul, donc normalement il se prépare un repas tout seul. – My brother lives alone, so normally he prepares himself a meal all alone.
  • Subject pronouns (il, elle, on): Il prépare toujours des repas faciles, contrairement à notre mère. Elle prépare souvent des repas très élaborés. On mange très bien quand on visite notre mère ! – He always prepares easy meals, in contrast to our mother. She often prepares very elaborate meals. We eat very well when we visit our mother!
  • Direct object pronouns (le, la): Quand il mange un burger, il le prépare au poêle. Quand il mange une quiche, il la prépare au four. – When he eats a burger, he prepares it in a pan. When he eats a quiche, he prepares it in the oven.
  • Indirect object pronoun (lui): Sa copine passe ce soir, alors il lui prépare un bon repas. – His girlfriend is passing by this evening, so he prepares her a good meal.
  • Stressed pronouns (lui, elle, soi): Elle est vegetarienne, alors ce soir il prépare une quiche aux poireaux pour elle et un burger pour soi. Elle prépare les assaisonements pour lui. – She’s vegetarian, so tonight he prepares a leek quiche for her and a burger for himself. She prepares the seasonings for him.

Did you notice any similarity between the first and last examples? Let’s take a closer look:

  • Mon frère se prépare un burger. Il prépare un burger pour soi. – My brother prepares himself a burger. He prepares a burger for himself.

This is a classic case of a reflexive pronoun, where the object of the verb’s action is the same as the actor. In this example, my brother prepares a burger for my brother: he prepares for himself. Depending on where the reflexive pronoun appears in the French sentence, however, it takes a different form: “il se prépare,” or “il prépare pour soi.” Indeed, if the direct or indirect object refers to the same person as the subject, then we need to use reflexive pronouns.

So far we’ve presented the typical forms of the French reflexive pronouns, which are indeed the ones you should generally think of when you’re considering the pronoms réfléchis. But in certain sentence structures where the pronoun doesn’t immediately precede the conjugated verb, the stressed pronouns, or pronoms toniques, can act as reflexive pronouns. Let’s see the full list of French reflexive pronouns here, comparing both sets of options:

in reflexive conjugations in other sentence structures
me moi
te toi
se lui, elle, soi
nous nous
vous vous
se eux, elles


The most common instance of a reflexive pronoun taking the form of a stressed pronoun is the second-person singular toi when we give commands. Indeed, the imperative conjugation of reflexive verbs requires this form. Let’s see a few examples.

  • Lave-toi les mains avant de manger. – Wash your hands before eating.
  • Il est presque midi. Réveille-toi ! – It’s almost noon. Wake up!
  • Prépare-toi un repas avant de t’évacher sur le canapé. – Prepare yourself a meal before flopping onto the couch.

Conclusion: French reflexive pronouns

Today’s post provided an in-depth introduction to the reflexive pronouns, in French known as les pronoms réféchis. In short, the French reflexive pronouns are: me, te, se, nous, vous, se. When used before words that begin with a vowel sound, me, te, and se are contracted to m’, t’, and s’.

Since most of these pronouns are identical to other categories of personal pronouns in French, we spent a lot of time comparing the different categories. We saw that it’s only in the third person that the reflexive pronouns in French have a fully unique form, as se in both singular and plural.

Finally, we saw that we can use another form of French reflexive pronoun in certain sentence structures, which otherwise resemble the stressed pronouns. The most common instance of this alternative form is in the second-person singular command form, where we always use toi rather than te.

The proper use of reflexive pronouns in French may take some practice, but is relatively straightforward in most contexts. Keeping them distinct from the other personal pronouns is often the most difficult aspect of their use. Fortunately, they’re mostly the same words, so it’s likely you’ll choose the right one either way!