German Grammar Explained /

Reflexive pronouns and reflexive verbs

There are some words that are very hard to translate, since they are usually words used solely for grammar - they don't really carry any real meaning. One of our favorites are reflexive pronouns...
mich dich sich uns euch
Where do these come from?
Some verbs are simply not strong enough on their own, they need an extra pronoun to help out. That reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject. The superstars of reflexive verbs are:
sich ärgern
sich erinnern
sich interessieren
sich ernähren
sich konzentrieren and our special guest today: sich entscheiden
That means...
Ich ärgere. WRONG!
Ich ärgere mich. Sie erinnert. WRONG!
Sie erinnert sich.
And so on.
Sich entscheiden - the special guest
entscheiden is somehow a more multifaceted verb. It can work with or without being reflexive. The meaning changes slightly...
entscheiden means "to decide" and sich entscheiden means… "to decide". See? When translations fail to express subtle differences, we need to look at the examples:
to make a general decision → no reflexive
Angela Merkel muss viel entscheiden.
Angela Merkel has to decide on many things.
to decide between different options (after careful consideration) → reflexive
Tom kann sich nicht für eine neue Frisur entscheiden.
Tom cannot decide on a new hair style.
Quiz time? 1. Was soll ich heute anziehen? Ich kann _____ . a. mich nicht entscheiden b. nicht entscheiden 2. Was habt ihr im Meeting _____ ? a. entschieden
b. euch entschieden 3. Wer soll _____, was wir machen müssen? a. sich entscheiden
b. entscheiden Solutions are at the bottom.
Watch out! Verbs that are reflexive in English aren't necessarily reflexive in German and the other way around. Languages are often different...
Ich interessiere mich für alte Autos.
I interest myself for old cars.
I'm interested in old cars.
Solutions: 1.a - 2.a - 3.b