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I was wondering whether the Chinese language has a reflexive verb construct. I know for example I wash myself, "我洗自己", can be thought of as a reflexive verb (if I am mistaken here and this is not a reflexive verb, perhaps someone more knowledgeable in grammer would like to correct me here).

So, I have the following questions:

  1. What is a reflexive verb called in Chinese?
  2. What are the grammatical rules governing usage of reflexive verb?
  3. Do Chinese use reflexive verbs in their daily life?

2 Answers 2

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Any verb that can apply to the subject itself is a reflexive verb. That covers most verbs. All you have to do is make the subject and object the same

[我 + V + 自己] = [I + v + myself] e.g. 我杀我自己 (I kill myself); 他骗他自己 (he deceives himself)

Or something the subject can only do to the subject itself

Example:

I bathe my dog = 我给我的狗洗澡

I bathe = 我洗澡 (洗澡 here is a reflexive verb)

He kills people = 他杀人

He kills himself = 他自杀 (自杀 here is a reflexive verb)

Others: 自赞 (praise oneself); 自問 (ask oneself); 反省 (self-reflect); 自我鼓励 (self encouraging);

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Well, for reflexive verbs, see Spanish, Spanish uses them all the time!!

(Yo) me lavo los manos.
(I ) me wash the hands.
我洗手。

(Nosotros) nos bañamos en el mar.
(We) ourselves bathe in the sea
我们在海里游泳。

¿Como te llamas tu?
how you call you
你的名字叫什么?

¿A qué hora se levantarse Usted?
at what hour you getup you
你几点起床?

And no, there is nothing like these kinds of Reflexive Verbs and Reflexive Pronouns in Chinese. (Thank God!)

How did you hurt yourself?
你是怎么受伤的?
*你是怎么受伤自己的?(rather not)

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  • 自己 is a reflexive pronoun; I think you're just saying there aren't clitics in Chinese the way there are in Spanish Apr 2, 2022 at 4:12
  • Looks like someone's quick reflexive action did a down-vote on you. :) Apr 2, 2022 at 5:29
  • BTW, though there is more than one way to translate "How did you hurt yourself", I prefer 你如何伤自己的?, so that the "How / 如何" becomes "more inquisitive" by asking for the "method" with which a person hurt himself. Of course 怎样 works as well. Apr 2, 2022 at 5:46
  • "enclitic (adj): in grammar, "subjoined and accentually dependent," said of a word or particle which in regard to accent forms a part of a preceding word and is treated as if one with it; 1660s (n.)" In Spanish Reflexive verbs are formed by adding se to the end of a verb, whereas, in German, we write "sich" in front. But the Reflexive Pronoun (RP) does not stay at the end or the front, neither in Spanish, nor in German. English: Don't move! Chinese: 别动! German: Beweg dich (RP) nicht! Spanish: ¡no te (RP) mueves! In Chinese you will probably not say: 你别自己动! or 你自己别动!
    – Pedroski
    Apr 2, 2022 at 22:30

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