What is the difference between the reflexive and non-reflexive forms of the verb wünschen? For example take the sentence:

I wish you a very pleasant evening

How would I say that in German?

Ich wünsche euch einen schönen Abend


Ich wünsche mir euch einen schönen Abend.

  • 1
    There is absolutely nothing reflexive in "ich wünsche mir..." - That's simply dative.
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 16:11
  • @tofro In the third person it becomes ‘er wünscht sich’ rather than ‘er wünscht ihm’, so by definition it is reflexive. I know, it seems weird.
    – Jan
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 16:21
  • 1
    @Jan - reflexive is always accusative, but "er wünscht sich" is dative. It just happens to look the same as "er wäscht sich", which is accusative and reflexive.
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 17:06
  • @tofro Basically you are saying that sich can be both a reflexive pronoun and a dative pronoun that references the acting individual and that these two are gramatically distinct?
    – Jan
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 17:15
  • 1
    @jan well, only for 3rd person it happens to be the same thing. 1st and second person have mich/mir and dich/dir. So dative and reflexive pronoun are distinct in the first two persons, so I'd assume they are grammatically distinct in the 3rd person, but just happen to look the same (just as in plural)
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


The difference between these two forms exists in English or other languages, too. Basically, a lot of verbs have a ‘person they affect’ which can be somebody else (non-reflexive) or oneself (reflexive). I tend to usually ignore that two forms of these verbs exist and just remember the non-reflexive one since it is more general.

Thus, I would suggest you remember the verb as:

jemandem etwas{akk} wünschen

With the additional information that jemandem can also be oneself, i.e. sich{dat}.

I’m not sure if verbs with two dative objects exist, but if they do they are rare. Thus, having a dative mich alongside a dative object euch should set off alarms. The only correct form is:

Ich wünsche euch einen schönen Abend.

If you want to wish yourself a nice evening you might say:

Ich wünsche mir einen schönen Abend.

But in this case only you are the recipient of the wish; nobody else can be. (Okay, they could, but that would be mir und euch.)

  • Thanks for the clear explanation. I am just still confused about the the reflexive verb, which mostly (and this is my understanding) mean a wish for the future: e.g.: wie wünschen sich die Fauen Männer in 10 Jahren? isn't Männer here an indirect Dativ Object?
    – Millen
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 16:14
  • @Millen No, Männer is an accusative object. You can tell this by changing it into the singular: ‘Wie wünschen sich die Frauen ihren Mann in 10 Jahren?’ In case you thought die Frauen were accusative: no, they are actually nominative and the sentence’s subject.
    – Jan
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 16:20

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