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.