How do you use zich in Dutch?

As a Dutch learner, you've almost certainly encountered zich already, and may be left wondering what exactly the word means and when it's used.

Put plainly: in Dutch, zich is the reflexive pronoun used with third person singular and plural subjects. If you don't understand, don't panic — read on for a quick explanation.

Reflexive verbs: a primer

Most sentences, in both Dutch and English, contain three main components: subject, verb, and object. The subject refers to the person or thing 'doing' the action and the object is the person or thing receiving the action, for example "John (subject) kicked (verb) the ball (object)".

Reflexive verbs exist in both languages. They are verbs with the same subject and object. Essentially, the action "reflects" back onto the subject ("He washes himself").

Zich in use

In Dutch, for the third person (singular and plural), the reflexive pronoun zich is used with the verb to indicate the reflexive action.

Below are examples for each of the third person pronouns in Dutch.

Hij wast zich. ("He washes himself.")

Ze zich voorstelt. ("She introduces herself.")

Het heeft zich verloren. ("It has lost itself.")

Zij maken zich klaar. ("They prepare themselves.")

Grasping the correct use of zich with reflexive verbs enhances your fluency, and elevates your Dutch to a more sophisticated level.

As with everything, practice makes perfect. Routledge's Basic Dutch: A Grammar and Workbook is an accessible yet thorough workbook providing engaging grammar exercises covering everything from pronouns to verb tenses, adjectives, word order, and more. See our recommended books for learning Dutch for both beginners and intermediate learners.