How to Use Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs in Italian

Using verbs that involve more than one person

Italian couple walking down street in Rome
Italian couple walking down street in Rome. Kathrin Ziegler

Romeo and Juliet meet, hug, kiss, and fall in love. They comfort each other, admire each other, and get married—but not without help from reciprocal reflexive verbs (i verbi riflessivi reciproci)!

These verbs express a reciprocal action that involves more than one person. The plural reflexive pronouns ci, vi, and si are used when conjugating reciprocal reflexive verbs.

Here are a few examples. Since we’re talking about a story like Romeo and Juliet, note that the verbs are conjugated in the past remote tense, which is the tense typically used to tell stories or recount the historical past.

  • Si abbracciarono affettuosamente. - They embraced each other affectionately.

  • Ci scambiammo alcune informazioni. - We exchanged some information.

  • Vi scriveste frequentemente, dopo quell'estate. - You frequently wrote to each other after that summer.

How to Use Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs in the Past Tense

If you want to use a reciprocal reflexive verb using the passato prossimo, there are a couple things you need to know about.

First, you need to conjugate it with the auxiliary verb (also called a “helper verb”) “essere - to be.”

Second, you need to know the past participle of the verb you’re using, so if you wanted to use “baciarsi - to kiss each other,” the past participle would be “baciato.” Since we’re talking about two people here, the -o at the end of “baciato” will become an -i to show that it’s plural.

The past participle depends on whether the verb ends in -are, -ere, or -ire.

So if I wanted to say, “They kissed each other at the airport,” it would be, “Si sono baciati all’aeroporto.”

Here are a couple other examples in various tenses:

  • (Il presente) Non si piacciono, ma si rispettano. - They don’t like each other, but they respect each other.

  • (Il passato prossimo) Si sono conosciuti alla festa di lavoro del mese scorso. - They met each other at the work party last month.

  • (L’imperfetto) Ogni giorno si salutavano, ma lui non le  ha mai chiesto di uscire. - Every day, they greeted each other, but he never asked her out.

    Other reciprocal verbs are listed in the table below.

    COMMON ITALIAN RECIPROCAL VERBS

    abbracciarsi

    to embrace each other (one another)

     

    to help each other (one another)

    amarsi

    to love each other (one another)

     

    to admire each other (one another)

    baciarsi

    to kiss each other (one another)

    conoscersi

    to know each other (also: to meet)

     

    to comfort each other (one another)

    incontrarsi

    to meet (each other)

    innamorarsi

    to fall in love (with each other)

    insultarsi

    to insult each other (one another)

     

    to recognize each other (one another)

     

    to respect each other (one another)

     

    to see each other again (one another)

     

    to greet each other (one another)

     

    to write to each other (one another)

    sposarsi

    to get married (to each other)

    vedersi

    to see each other (one another)

     

    to visit each other (one another)