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Hi everyone, I've been trying to revise reflexive verbs in the past tense  for an exam and I've got a bit confused.

I understand that for an active reflexive verb eg 'I wash myself' you need to use

Je me suis

Tu t'es

Il s'est

Nous nous sommes

Vous vous etes

Ils se sont

e.g. Je me couche(e)


However where I'm get stuck is with the passive verbs. Firstly does passive mean the object of the sentence, so something is being done to it?

I just don't understand how - Je suis frappe(e) - is a reflexive verb at all - how would I recognise that in a sentence as being a reflexive verb?

Also doesn't frappe mean knock, so I knocked the door - isn't that active since I am doing the knocking.

Lastly why do some verbs take a part of avoir - J'ai ete renvoye(e) - that's just completely thrown me. So how are passive reflexive verbs in the past formed?



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I think part of the confusion might be that you're seeing passive and reflexive verbs as being somehow related, and they're actually incompatible with one another.


So reflexive verbs essentially have the "self" meaning: "I washed myself", "I got (myself) up" etc.


Then, passive verbs are ones where what is logically the object (the thing having something done to it) is the subject of the sentence: so the equivalent of "was -ed", "was -en" in English ("the postman was bitten by the dog", "The cathedral was built by the slaves" etc).


[You might be wondering how you say e.g. "I was washed by myself", which does combine "reflexive" and "passive", but (a) it turns out that French wouldn't use a reflexive verb here, and (b) you probably won't need to say this very often. So to all intents and purposes, I would view "reflexive" and "passive" as different, incompatible things.]

Thanks for that. You've made it a lot clearer now


I just don't understand how - Je suis frappe(e) - is a reflexive verb at all

It isn't, this is the passive tense, like English's "I am hit". If you wanted to use a reflexive here, it would change the meaning of the sentence: You would say "Je ME suis frappé" - I hit MYSELF.


See the difference?

I am hit - Je suis frappé

I hit(past tense) myself - Je me suis frappé


The past tense (passé composé) of reflexive verbs are not that different from the passé composé of normal verbs.


I ate a grape = J'ai mangé un raisin

I washed myself = Je me suis lavé(e)


The only difference is that you need to place the corresponding pronoun of the subject (me for je, te for tu, se for il/elle/ça, nous for nous, etc.) first. Then you need to use the être form of the passé composé (all reflexives take être in the passé composé) which also needs to agree with your subject. (suis for je, es for tu, etc.).


I think the confusion stems from 1 of 2 issues.


1) You think that "Je me suis"= I washed myself. This isn't the case. "Je me suis lavé" = I washed myself. "Je me suis"  just doesn't mean anything (in the way you've intended it).


2) You think that "Je me suis lavé" = I wash myself. It's not. "Je me suis lavé" = I washED myself. "Je me lave" = I wash myself.


Hope this helps!


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