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Reflexive Verbs in Russian: Can You Teach Yourself to Use Them?

Reflexive verbs, such as “нравиться” (nravit’sya – to like) and “казаться” (kazat’sya – to seem), are common in Russian, and even novice students will have encountered them. These verbs reflect the idea of “self,” and in this post, we learn how to use them.

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When to Use Reflexive Verbs in Russian

All Russian reflexive verbs have the suffix –ся or –сь. For example,

  • Встречаться (vstrechat’sya) – to meet each other

  • Мыться (myt’sya) – to wash oneself

  • Готовиться (gotovit’sya) – to prepare oneself

  • Одеваться (odevat’sya) – to dress oneself

These verbs are used in several situations, with the first being when the subject and the object of the sentence are the same person.

  • Я моюсь. (Ya moius’.) – I wash myself.

The subject and the object are “I,” which means “I perform an action toward myself.”

In “Я мою посуду” (Ya moiu posudu – I wash the dishes), for example, the subject is “I” and the object is “the dishes,” so the verb does not take the reflexive suffix.

Second, when people do something together, and they’re affected by each other’s actions, reflexive verbs are used. Compare the following examples:

  • Он встретил ее в аэропорту. (On vstretil eyo v aeroportu.) – He met her at the airport.

  • Они встретились в аэропорту. (Oni vstretilis’ v aeroportu.) – They met each other at the airport.

The first sentence gives us information about a guy who has met a girl; the second sentence tells us that they have met each other.

Third, when the subject does not perform an action, we use the passive voice and reflexive verbs. Compare, for example,

  • Мой дедушка строит дом. (Moi dedushka stroit dom.) – My grandpa is building a house.

  • Дом строится. (Dom stroitsya.) – The house is being built.

Finally, some verbs are always used with the suffix –ся, and you can simply memorize them:

  • Нравиться (nravit’sya) – to like

  • Надеяться (nadeyat’sya) – to hope

  • Заниматься (zanimat’sya) – to do something, to do be busy with something

  • Оставаться (ostavat’sya) – to stay

How to Build Reflexive Verbs in Russian

Russian verbs can be transformed into reflexive verbs with the help of suffixes. Reflexive verbs in Russian take either the suffix –ся or the suffix –сь.

We use the suffix –сь when the subject is “я” (ya – I) or “вы” (vy – you). In all other cases, we use the suffix –ся:

  • Я учусь (Ya uchus’) – I study

  • Ты учишься (Ty uchishsya) – You study

  • Он учится (On uchitsya) – He studies

  • Мы учимся (My uchimsya) – We study

  • Вы учитесь (Vy uchites’) – You study

  • Они учатся (Oni uchatsya) – They study

Learn How to Use Reflexive Verbs in Russian

Now you know how to express an idea of “self” in Russian. Although you can teach yourself how to properly use reflexive verbs, working with a tutor makes the learning process much faster and easier. Order a Russian lesson to work with one of our tutors.

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