I have looked up "abgewöhnen" in several online dictionaries. It seems to always be used reflexively but is not listed as reflexive. Can someone explain why this is?

sich Dat etw. Akk abgewöhnen

  • Well, two very frequently consulted dictionaries (Wiktionary and DWDS) do list it as reflexive. de.wiktionary.org/wiki/abgew%C3%B6hnen and dwds.de/wb/abgew%C3%B6hnen Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 11:26
  • @Björn Friedrich I did consult DWDS before posting this but I failed (and still fail) to see where it says reflexive there. It lists reflexive in the Etymology, is that what you mean?
    – tom
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 12:48
  • yes, this is what I mean. Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 13:49
  • 1
    @BjörnFriedrich DWDS does not call the verb reflexive and has an example that shows that it is not always used reflexively: wir müssen ihm die Unpünktlichkeit abgewöhnen. The reflexive in the etymology is used to characterise the meaning vertraut werden, as opposed to non-reflexive vertraut machen.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 15:25
  • 1
    @BjörnFriedrich I feel your comment is misleading OP.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


It is partially reflexive depending on usage - You can either get out of a habit yourself or have someone else drop a habit.

Ich sollte mir endlich mal das Rauchen abgewöhnen

Wir haben dem Hund abgewöhnt, immer auf den Teppich zu pinkeln

In a purer sense, German grammar considers verbs only then as genuinely reflexive verbs when they cannot be used in a non-reflexive way at all, like

  • sich auskennen
  • sich ausruhen
  • sich bücken
  • sich erholen
  • sich erkälten
  • sich irren
  • sich weigern
  • So then is the first example the reflexive one (when referring to yourself it is reflexive)?
    – tom
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 12:50
  • 2
    @tom: you can call it reflexive in the first case, but the more general form is "jemandem (dat.) etwas (akk.) abgewöhnen", and "sich" is just a special case. A different example of a verb used in this way is "jemandem gefallen" with the special case "sich gefallen": "Ich gefalle mir, du gefällst dir, er/sie/es gefällt sich, wir gefallen uns, ihr gefallt euch, sie gefallen sich". Basically you can always use "sich" as a dative or akkusative object in 3rd person referring to the subject himself/herself/itself.
    – HalvarF
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 15:15
  • 1
    ("Basically" because quite often the meaning of the verb changes when used with "sich", and also with whether "sich" is used as the accusative ot the dative object: "Er stellte sich (akk.) der Dame (dat.) vor" [he introduced himself to the lady] vs."Er stellte sich (dat.) die Dame (akk.) vor." [he imagined the lady]).
    – HalvarF
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 15:29
  • 1
    The verb "abgewöhnen" can be used reflexively (e.g. "sich das Rauchen abgewöhnen"), but it does not have to (e.g. "dem Hund etwas abgewöhnen"), like @tofro says. In a broad sense, "abgewöhnen" can be regarded as reflexive. In the strict sense, however, it is not necessarily reflexive. Other verbs (e.g. "sich verspäten") can only be used in a reflexive way.
    – JavAlex
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 15:51
  • 1
    Well, no rule without at least one exception: Even purely reflexive verbs listed as such in dictionaries may rarely be used in a non-reflexive way, for example "sich irren" such as in "..., da irrt der Experte aber" or "sich erinnern" such as in "ich erinnere noch Zeiten, als es kein Internet gab"
    – tofro
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 12:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.