Italian Language/reflexive verbs


Dear Maria,

Can Italian reflexive verbs be both transitive and intransitive?

In the past, I thought that Italian reflexive verbs were only used as transitive verbs.  But, now I see that I may have misunderstood because “rivolgersi a” is both reflexive and intransitive.

So, I just need to make sure that I now understand correctly.  Your verification that Italian reflexive verbs can be both transitive and intransitive will really help eliminate my confusion and help me very much.

I am also wondering if all Italian reflexive verbs can be used as either transitive or intransitive verbs, or if this intransitive usage only applies to some reflexive verbs.

Thank you.



Dear Rich,

Italian reflexive verbs, i.e. those verbs that use the reflexive particles "mi - ti - ci – si- vi", can be both transitive and intransitive.
For example, “rivolgersi a” is usually  intransitive, but can also be transitive in e.g. ”rivolgersi la parola” where “parola” is a direct object; “lavarsi” or “vestirsi”  are usually transitive (see:”Io mi lavo” where “mi” is the direct object as it stands for “me stesso”),but can also be intransitive (See : “Io mi lavo le mani” where “mi” stands for “a me” as an indirect object, and “le mani” is the direct object).

Anyway, most reflexive verbs are intransitive, like e.g. “vergognarsi”, “svegliarsi”, “impadronirsi”, “ammalarsi”, “accanirsi”, “pentirsi” “ribellarsi”, “inginocchiarsi “, “imbattersi”,” adirarsi”,”aggrapparsi”, “rifugiarsi”, etc.

In short,  Italian reflexive verbs can be used as either transitive or intransitive so that I have to repeat that  it is better to consult the dictionary and read the examples that refer to the verb you are looking up so that you can feel certain that a reflexive verb  is transitive or not, depending on whether there is or not a direct object.

I’m afraid I cannot help you more, as this is a difficult matter for a non native Italian speaker and sometimes for native Italian speakers too.

Best regards,


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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.


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