I am new to German and came across the phrase:

"Darauf würde ich mich nicht verlassen"

I wouldn't count on that!

I don't understand why "mich" is used instead of just:

"Darauf würde ich nicht verlassen"

Can you please explain?

  • Welcome to German.SE. What already learned rule etc. gave you the assumption that your proposal would be right? (and thx for having your own attempt :-) Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 19:41
  • What is so strange about having both in a sentence? In case you're coming from one of those languages where syntactic case applies to the whole sentence - German isn't like that. Our cases are governed by verbs or prepositions, and they extend only over one noun phrase. Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 7:45
  • Never attempt to understand one language using grammar from another (unless you know and understand the historical linguistic background). German isn't English and doesn't work the same way. In this case, the German verb is reflexive and the English verb isn't. Why? That's a misleading question, as it assumes that German should somehow conform to English.
    – user47230
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 8:10

3 Answers 3


Verlassen is a reflexive verb, see DWDS, so the person has an active and a passive role in the interaction. (Without reflexive pronoun, the meaning is a different one, corresponding to abandon.)

There are other reflexive verbs like sich {die Hände} waschen (see corresponding question), where the separation between the acting role and the receiving role is more obvious.


English has only pseudo reflexive verbs, i.e. verbs, that can be used reflexive:

Eric introduces himself to the class.
Carol washes herself.
John accidentally cut himself with a knife.
Laura taught herself how to beak bread.

But you can use all these verbs transitive too:

Eric introduces his father to the class.
Carol washes the car.
John accidentally cut the table with a knife.
Laura taught Simon how to beak bread.

German has this kind of verbs too, but German has in addition verbs, that always must be used together with a reflexive pronoun. Omitting the reflexive pronoun would be wrong:

Lisa freut sich.
Lisa is happy.
Jürgen bedankt sich für die Hilfe.
Jürgen thanks for the help.
Barbara ruht sich aus.
Barbara takes a rest.
Lisa fürchtet sich vor Spinnen.
Lisa is afraid of spiders.


And »sich auf etwas verlassen« is such a reflexive verb:

correct: Ich verlasse mich auf dich.
I'm counting on you.
wrong: Ich verlasse auf dich.

But »verlassen« has a homonym with a very different meaning which is not reflexive, so don't mix them up:

Ich verlasse dich.
I leave you.

  • 1
    Das freut mich is not a reflexive use, is it? And fürchten could be transitive too.
    – c.p.
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 22:10
  • 1
    @c.p.: That's a different meaning of "freuen". Note how in the meaning found in "Das freut mich.", which can be used non-reflexively, the subject is what generates the happiness, whereas in the meaning found in "Lisa freut sich.", which can only be used reflexively, whatever causes the happiness is not mentioned (or would be mentioned in a different way, as a prepositional object with "über"). The same pattern occurs in "fürchten". Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 23:39
  • 1
    @c.p.: If anything, "Barbara ruht sich aus." may be a bit of a borderline case, for at least in colloquial language, non-reflexive use of "ausruhen" appears to be slowly spreading, possibly (pure speculation!) also because there is a very similar non-reflexive verb "ruhen" with essentially the same meaning, and the two get mixed up by some speakers, and because the synonymous anglicism "relaxen" is non-reflexive, as well. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 23:40
  • @O.R.Mapper I don't understand. I am just referring to the English comparison. In your Lisa-example, notice that John accidentally cut himself (what causes it, one doesn't know) and John accidentally cuts something is similar. But Huber says this is pseudoreflexivity, while in German isn't. Why?
    – c.p.
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 19:07
  • @c.p.: Yes, "John accidentally cuts himself." and "John accidentally cuts something." use "to cut" in the same way. In both cases, the one who executes the cut is the subject, and the one receiving the cut is the direct object, in the first example replaced by a reflexive pronoun - which is why this is only pseudo-reflexivity. But if I understood Hubert's explanations correctly, he doesn't claim that "John schneidet sich versehentlich." is not an example pseudo-reflexivity, just that, as opposed to German, English doesn't have any verbs that (within their context of prepositional ... Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 22:46

Consider this

I will rid myself of the burden.

It would not make sense without the reflexive myself.

Similarly, German has verbs like rid (to rid oneself) that are reflexive. They‘re listed in the dictionary as sich + verb, for example sich verlassen.

Another indicator of reflexitivity is each other.

We kissed each other.

or the common (dare I say, infamous) mistake by German speakers:

We‘ll see each other. (!We‘ll see us from German: Wir sehen uns.)

So by analogy,

"Darauf würde ich mich nicht verlassen"

sounds weird without the mich in there like removing myself from rid myself.

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