It seems a bit repetitive to refer to oneself again in the same sentence. Is there some grammatical rule behind this for a particular class of verbs?

  • If you look for languages that behave "logic", go to programming languages. Natural languages are not made to be "logic", they developed over dozens of centuries and are by nature a collection of oddities. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 12:53
  • @ChristianGeiselmann that is something my teacher says a lot ! as a programmer I can't help it sometimes and in this case, I wasn't aware of "Reflexiv verben"
    – She
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 16:49
  • Fun fact: you can say Ich dusche mich, but also Ich dusche, and there is no difference in meaning. Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 11:41

4 Answers 4


Yes, there is a number of verbs which require a reflexive pronoun ("Reflexivpronomen"). They are called "true reflexive verbs" (echte reflexive Verben), and "[sich] freuen" is one of them.
You can find a list of other verbs here:


Another group of verbs are the "false reflexive verbs" (unechte reflexive Verben).
They can be used reflexive, like in

"Wir treffen uns morgen".

But they can also be used with accusative:

"Wir treffen ihn morgen." -> "ihn" is no reflexive pronoun.

To add some fun and confusion:
The verb "treffen" has another meaning: "to hit". The sentence

Wir treffen uns morgen.

is fine.

Ich treffe mich morgen.

means either I shoot myself or I have a multiple personality :-)

Ich treffe mich morgen mit Hans.

is correct. In everyday speech you could even say

Ich treffe morgen Hans.

It depends on the context which meaning of "treffen" applies, but in most cases Hans should survive ;-)

  • 1
    To add even more confusion: "jdn treffen" and "sich mit jdm treffen" aren't even fully synonymous. The former can also be used for running into someone, the latter always means meetings on purpose.
    – DonHolgo
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 11:57

German language has two kinds of reflexive verbs: Echte reflexive Verben and unechte reflexive Verben

Echte reflexive Verben like freuen always have a reflexive object (Reflexivpronomen). You can say

Ich freue mich.

Er freut sich.

but can't say

Ich freue dich.

Ich freue.

Unechte reflexive Verben like treffen or waschen may be used reflexive like

Ich wasche mich.

Wir treffen uns (nächste Woche).

but also with an Akkusativ- or Dativ-Objekt

Ich wasche die Kleidung.

Ich treffe dich (am Kino).

or simply (in some circumstances)

Ich wasche.


You might have heard of the differentiation between transitive and intransitive verbs. In short, a transitive verb requires an object (sometimes multiple objects), an intransitive verb can't be used with a (direct) object.

An example for a transitive verb in English is "to need". You can't just say, "I need", you need to need something ;) On the other hand, "to flow" is intransitive, you can't flow something.

In English, many verbs can be used as transitive or intransitive without change, so the distinction isn't as visible as in other languages. For example, "I open the door" (transitive usage of "to open") and "The door opens" (intransitive usage of "to open") are both correct.

Occasionally, the object that a verb has to have refers back to the subject of the sentence, as in "He hurt himself". Such verbs are called "reflexive verbs". In your examples, "treffen" and "freuen" are such reflexive verbs. In fact, they're typically specified as "sich treffen" and "sich freuen".


The problem is, that verbs are possibly ambiguous, they can be reflexive, but need not to be: We could meet the customer, the boss, some of our colleagues or simply each other. Simply to leave out the object for the latter meaning is not idiomatic and seems an unusual shortcut anyway.

(Admittedly this does not really apply to freuen, which is impossibly to do with someone else. But it is simply used in the same way.)

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