Unité 4b : Perfect Tense part 2, Emphatic Pronouns (moi, toi, …)




Passé Composé of Reflexive verbs



Reflexive verbs

As you will be aware, reflexive verbs get their name from the action being performed on the subject:

S’arrêter (to stop oneself); se laver (to wash oneself); se lever (to get (onself) up); se réveiller (to wake up), s’amuser (to enjoy oneself).

In English, we often do not include the reflexive part of the verb. For example, we say ‘The car stops’, rather than ‘The car stops itself’. It is important in French, however, that the reflexive pronoun be used.

In the Passé Composé, reflexive verbs are conjugated with ‘être’ and follow the example of se laver:

Je me suis lavé (e)
Tu t’es lavé (e)
Il/On s’est lavé
Elle s’est lavée
Nous nous sommes lavé(e)s
Vous vous êtes lavé(e)(s)
Ils se sont lavés
Elles se sont lavées

There is agreement between the past participle and the reflexive pronoun, provided the latter is direct. Below are a few examples of where the pronoun is indirect:

  • Elles se sont écrit des lettres – They wrote letters to each other.
  • Les hommes se sont dit au revoir – The men said goodbye to one another

Similarly, when the reflexive verb is followed by a direct object, there is no agreement with the subject:

  • Elle s’est cassé la jambe – She broke her leg (in other words, she did not break herself).


Negative of the Passé Composé for Reflexive Verbs

With the negative form of the Passé Composé, it is important to note that the ‘ne’ is placed in front of the auxiliary verb (avoir or être) and the ‘pas’ after it. With reflexive verbs, the ‘ne’ comes ahead of the reflexive pronoun, as per the examples below.

  • Ils ne se sont pas arrêtés au feu rouge
  • Les filles ne se sont pas lavé les cheveux


Emphatic or Disjunctive Pronouns

In French, disjunctive pronouns are used with prepositions (e.g. après, avec, chez) or the imperative (e.g. écoute-moi). Below is the list of disjunctive pronouns.


me moi
you toi
him / her / it lui / elle
us   nous
you vous
them eux / elles


  • Je cours après lui – I run after him.
    ‘Lui’ in this case denotes ‘him’ and not ‘to him’, as when it is used with a verb.
  • Je lui parle – I speak to him
  • Je veux aller chez elle ce soir
  • Je l’ai fait pour eux – I did it for them
  • D’après elle, le monsieur est parti
  • Donne-moi le pain !

Or in the story:

Si tu passes devant chez moi en allant à la bibliothèque…

They are also used for emphasis:

  • Moi, je crois qu’il est malin – I think he is sly

Or in the story:

  • Les gens de Rouen sont venus, eux aussi, voir les coureurs de plus près – The people from Rouen, they also came to see the cycling racers more closely. 

It is important to differentiate between verbs and prepositions. Disjunctive pronouns are used with the latter.

  • Nous avons tout fait pour elles – We did everything for them.

BUT: Il les a frappées – He hit them 


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