2.5 – Reflexive se and si and 2nd position

2.5 – Reflexive se and si and 2nd position

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2.5 – Reflexive se and si and 2nd position
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2.5 – Reflexive se and si and 2nd position

In this unit there are several verbs with the reflexive pronoun se (mít se ‘to be doing, feeling’, učit se ‘to learn, study’, jmenovat se ‘to be called’), as well as with the reflexive pronoun si (myslet si ‘to think, have an opinion’). This lesson deals with the meaning of these words in Czech and how they are used in a sentence.

Meaning of reflexive se/si

Both se and si mean ‘-self’ in Czech, as in ‘myself’, ‘yourself’, ‘himself’, etc.



se is the object of the verb in the sentence. It’s easiest to see this meaning with a few other verbs (we haven’t learned these yet, but they are useful for illustration), such as vidět ‘to see’ or holit ‘shave’:

vidím se (v zrcadle) — ‘I see myself (in the mirror).’

holíš se? — ‘Are you shaving (yourself)?’

The verb učit se means to learn and is actually comprised of the verb učit – ‘to teach’ and reflexive se. In other words, ‘to learn/study’ is actually ‘to teach yourself’..

The verb jmenovat means ‘to name, or call’ and from this we get jmenovat se ‘to call oneself’. Jmenuju se is really ‘I call myself…’, i.e. ‘My name is…’. Here, se functions as the direct object of these verbs (i.e. accusative case).

The verb mít se, lit. ‘to have oneself’, is best understood idiomatically as part of the question jak se máš? ‘how are you doing?’ and the corresponding answer mám se dobře, špatně ‘I’m doing well/badly.’ We will continue to learn verbs where the presence of se is best memorized, with verbs such as snažit se ‘to try’ or bát se ‘to be afraid’. You will find these in later chapters of Reality Czech.

On the other hand, si  means ‘to or for oneself (myself, yourself, etc.)’. Take a look at the following examples:

Vařím si čaj.

I’m making myself tea (lit. cooking for myself).

Dělám si salát.

I’m making (for) myself a salad.

You can also find si with the verb myslet ‘to think’. Myslet si literally means ‘to think to oneself’, and more generally means to think or have an opinion about something.

        Myslím si, že to je dobrý film.

        I think (my opinion is), that that’s a good movie.

We’ll eventually learn more verbs with si.

2nd Position with se/si

We also will need to learn about the position of se/si in a sentence. It occupies what is known as 2nd position. The reflexive pronouns se/si will always be the 2nd element of a sentence, cf. the following:

Jak se máš? — How are you doing?

Mám se dobře. — I’m doing well.

Jak se jmenujete? — What’s your name?

Jmenuju se Lenka. — My name is Lenka.

Myslím si, že ta nová učebnice je dobrá. — I think that the new textbook is good.

Co si o tom myslíš? — What do you think about it? [i.e. what’s your opinion?]

Note that 2nd position is not the same as being the 2nd word in a sentence. In the sentences below, reflexive se is the 3rd or 4th word in the sentence:

Naše děti se mají dobře. — Our children are doing well.

Můj nový kamarád se jmenuje Pavel. — My friend’s name is [My friend calls himself] Pavel.

In these sentences Naše děti and Můj nový kamarád are each considered a single unit, words describing the subject, since it wouldn’t make sense to divide them up.