Using reflexive pronouns to express 'each other'

Look how to express reciprocity in French:

Nous nous aimons tellement.
We love each other so much.

Vous vous envoyez des cartes de Noël tous les ans.
You send Christmas cards to each other every year.

Elles se font complètement confiance.
They trust each other completely.

Les deux chiens se fixèrent avec méfiance.
The two dogs stared at each other suspiciously.

Bien sûr qu'on se déteste!
Of course we hate each other!

 

Note that in French to express reciprocity (each other), you use the same reflexive pronouns se/nous/vous as to say themselves, ourselves, yourselves.

Therefore, in most cases, it's the context which will determine which kind of reflexives it is:

Les garçons se sont mordus.
The boys bit each other.
The boys bit themselves.


In some specific cases, it can even change the meaning altogether:

E.g. s'entendre (reciprocity)  =  to hear each other       

VS   s'entendre (reflexive verb)   =  to get along

Ils ne s'entendent pas avec cette musique assourdissante!
They don't hear each other with that deafening music!

Mes frères s'entendent très bien !
My brothers get along very well !

  

REMEMBER that reflexive verbs take être in compound tenses!  

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Bien sûr qu'on se déteste!
Of course we hate each other!


Nous nous aimons tellement.
We love each other so much.


Elles se font complètement confiance.
They trust each other completely.


Les deux chiens se fixèrent avec méfiance.
The two dogs stared at each other suspiciously.


Ils ne s'entendent pas avec cette musique assourdissante!
They don't hear each other with that deafening music!


Vous vous envoyez des cartes de Noël tous les ans.
You send Christmas cards to each other every year.


Mes frères s'entendent très bien !
My brothers get along very well !


Les garçons se sont mordus.
The boys bit each other.
The boys bit themselves.


Q&A Forum 9 questions, 8 answers

JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Use of être/avoir for non-reflexive verbs that use reflexive pronouns

Do non-reflexive verbs used in the past tense with a reflexive pronoun use être or avoir?

For example, if the above sentence "Les deux chiens se fixèrent avec méfiance" is put in the past tense, do we use être with the verb "fixer" (-->"Les deux chiens se sont fixées avec méfiance")?

Or, am I asking the wrong question? In other words, in French perhaps there is no such thing as verbs that are "non-reflexive." Instead, is it that case that any verb used with a reflexive pronoun automatically becomes a reflexive verb, which means the rule regarding use of être in forming the past tense applies?

Asked 1 week ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi John,

If I have understood your question correctly, the verb 'se fixer' is reflexive, so it will use the auxiliary verb 'être'. Here, it conveys a reciprocal action.

But if you used the verb 'fixer' on its own , it would use 'avoir' in the past tense -

La dame m'a fixé/e avec un air de méfiance The lady stared at me , with a look of mistrust

Hope this helps!

Use of être/avoir for non-reflexive verbs that use reflexive pronouns

Do non-reflexive verbs used in the past tense with a reflexive pronoun use être or avoir?

For example, if the above sentence "Les deux chiens se fixèrent avec méfiance" is put in the past tense, do we use être with the verb "fixer" (-->"Les deux chiens se sont fixées avec méfiance")?

Or, am I asking the wrong question? In other words, in French perhaps there is no such thing as verbs that are "non-reflexive." Instead, is it that case that any verb used with a reflexive pronoun automatically becomes a reflexive verb, which means the rule regarding use of être in forming the past tense applies?

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Julianne B2Kwiziq community member

Re ‘Bien sûr qu’on se déteste’ answer to correct translations

I see this is the subject of a question and answer but I don’t think the response is adequate. The text of the lesson states that the meaning depends on the context. Surely the context means that ‘Bien sûr qu’on se déteste’ means ‘of course we hate each other’ as the correct response - because I want sort of context would tow people say to another we hates ourselves? I think this needs fixing or the lesson should at least be clear that both translations are possible. 

Asked 2 months ago

Re ‘Bien sûr qu’on se déteste’ answer to correct translations

I see this is the subject of a question and answer but I don’t think the response is adequate. The text of the lesson states that the meaning depends on the context. Surely the context means that ‘Bien sûr qu’on se déteste’ means ‘of course we hate each other’ as the correct response - because I want sort of context would tow people say to another we hates ourselves? I think this needs fixing or the lesson should at least be clear that both translations are possible. 

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SaraB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Besides s’entendre, are there any more examples of such words with more than 1 meaning depending on context?

Asked 4 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Yes, there are quite a few, actually. For example:

attendre -- to wait.

s'attendre -- to expect.

Besides s’entendre, are there any more examples of such words with more than 1 meaning depending on context?

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MikeB2Kwiziq community member

I'm confused.

The correct kwiz answers indicate "Bien sûr qu'on se déteste!" translates to both "Of course we hate each other!" and "Of course we hate ourselves!"

These English translations have different meanings -- i.e., "I hate you and you hate me" versus "I hate myself and you hate yourself."

My question:  does the French sentence also imply these two distinctly different meanings?

Asked 7 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

The French sentence encompasses both of those very different meanings. You need context (and common sense, sometimes) to distinguish between them.

I'm confused.

The correct kwiz answers indicate "Bien sûr qu'on se déteste!" translates to both "Of course we hate each other!" and "Of course we hate ourselves!"

These English translations have different meanings -- i.e., "I hate you and you hate me" versus "I hate myself and you hate yourself."

My question:  does the French sentence also imply these two distinctly different meanings?

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MargaretB2Kwiziq community member

Ils se font face - could you also say: ils font face l'un à l'autre?

Asked 8 months ago

Ils se font face - could you also say: ils font face l'un à l'autre?

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William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Reflexive verbs

The question was:

Et vous ________ à une soirée.And you met each other at a party.HINT: rencontrer = to meet 

The answer given was vous vous êtes rencontrés however is vous vous êtes rencontréenot also a possible answer?

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi William,

If the people involved are all female it would be "Vous vous êtes rencontrées".

If it is a collection of male and female it will be "Vous vous êtes rencontrés"

William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Thank you

Reflexive verbs

The question was:

Et vous ________ à une soirée.And you met each other at a party.HINT: rencontrer = to meet 

The answer given was vous vous êtes rencontrés however is vous vous êtes rencontréenot also a possible answer?

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MeghnaC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

S'entendre

The example given - Mes frères s'entendent très bien ! translated to my brothers get along well. Can it also mean 'my brothers hear each. Other well?´
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Meghna ! Yes, without a clear context, it could mean either of these :) Bonne journée !

S'entendre

The example given - Mes frères s'entendent très bien ! translated to my brothers get along well. Can it also mean 'my brothers hear each. Other well?´

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LorettaC1Kwiziq community member

Une question

C'est juste si je dis: Bien sûr qu'on se déteste, mais on s'aime aussi.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Loretta ! Yes, your sentence is correct, to say "Of course we hate each other, but we also love each other." Bonne journée !

Une question

C'est juste si je dis: Bien sûr qu'on se déteste, mais on s'aime aussi.

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AurélieKwiziq team member

D. asked: "In what context "His parents kissed themselves?" would be correct?"

Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Dear D., Just like in English, I can't think of ordinary situations in which "His parents kissed themselves" would be used, but let's imagine they're under a spell, and start kissing themselves frantically ;) The fact is that without a clear context, the French sentence "Ses parents se sont embrassés" would be the way to express this idea, as well as it could also mean "His parents kissed each other", we agree a more common occurrence :) I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !

D. asked: "In what context "His parents kissed themselves?" would be correct?"

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