The Pronouns Si & Consigo

Grammatically speaking, the pronouns si and consigo belong to the 3rd person subjects: ele(s)/ela(s). This is because they were initially only used as reflexive pronouns*, which are pronouns that refer to the same subject or thing as the verb. For example:
Ele levou a mala consigo Play normal audio He took the suitcase with him
The sentence above is still correct and wouldn’t be confusing because the context makes it clear who consigo refers to. Nowadays, however, it’s more common to see si and consigo used with 2nd person formal subjects. Si and consigo can replace você, as using você in European Portuguese can sometimes be seen as disrespectful or too intense. For example:
Isto é para si Play normal audio This is for you
Eu vou consigo Play normal audio I'll go with you
*We’ll talk more about reflexive tonic pronouns in an upcoming Learning Note, but you can read more about reflexive clitic pronouns here.

How Do I Know When Si and Consigo are Being Used Reflexively or Not?

Since si and consigo are no longer used (only) as reflexive pronouns, this creates some ambiguity. Luckily there are many common ways to make it clear who you’re referring to.
Take a look at the following sentence:
Ele falou de si Play normal audio
What’s the translation here?

  • Is si reflexive and referring to ele (“He talked about himself“)?
  • Does si refer to someone else (“He talked about her“)?
  • Does si refer to você (“He talked about you(formal)”)?

Given what we just learned, if you guessed você, you’re probably right. Nowadays, that’s what it typically stands for, but this wasn’t always the case. Thus, to make it clear that si or consigo are being used reflexively, especially if it’s not clear from the context, you should add the words mesmo or próprio.
Ele falou de si Play normal audio He talked about you(formal)
Ele falou de si próprio. Play normal audio He talked about himself.
Ele está preocupado consigo. Play normal audio He's worried about you.
Ele está preocupado consigo mesmo. Play normal audio He's worried about himself.
On the other hand, if you wanted to refer to someone else and avoid ambiguity, you would probably say:
Ele falou dele Play normal audio He talked about him or Ele falou dela Play normal audio He talked about her

Emphatic Use of Si

Similar to ele(s)/ela(s), si often goes along with the clitic pronoun lhe, as way of emphasizing the indirect object. Remember to include the preposition a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to.
O médico receitou-lhe a si este remédio? Play normal audio The doctor prescribed this medicine to you?
O João disse-lhe isso a si. Play normal audio João said that to you.
With both examples, it’s clear who we’re talking about. If you were to remove a si, however, it might be tricky without extra context.
O João disse-lhe isso Play normal audio João said that to...
Did João speak to you or to another person (he/she)? Without adding a si (or having more information), it’s impossible to figure it out.

Si as a Reciprocal Pronoun

Lastly, si can also play the part of a reciprocal pronoun if two people are performing the same action to each other. In this case, we need to add the word entre paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio between, among.
Eles discutiram entre si. Play normal audio They argued with each other.
A Maria e o João trocaram prendas entre si. Play normal audio Mary and John exchanged gifts with each other.


  • Can you explain please what mesmo and próprio mean and are they always paired in the same way ; mesmo with consigo and próprio with si?

    • Olá 🙂 In this context, you shouldn’t think of mesmo and próprio as having a specific meaning per se; they work together with the preceding pronoun to emphasize who the subject is or that the action is reflexive. Both words also have other unrelated uses, so you do have to keep context in mind when looking at them. Those pairings aren’t fixed; the two words are typically interchangeable.

  • Olá! Couldn’t you also say “O médico receitou este remédio a si”? What does the “-lhe” add?

    Muito obrigado! Estou a aprender bastante!

    • Olá, Eric. Yes, in that sentence, you can omit the “-lhe” or, in alternative, omit the “a si”. As the learning note describes, they are used together for emphasis and clarity, but it is not mandatory 🙂

  • Can you explain why
    They care about us is

    Eles preocupam-se connosco

    while They think about us is

    Eles pensam em nós

    • Olá, Peter. Verbs may have different requirements for prepositions and clitic pronouns. So, while the verb preocupar usually asks for the preposition com (connosco = com + nós), the verb pensar comes with the preposition em instead. Verbs such as gostar ask for the preposition de. And so on. It does take some memorization to get used to all these different patterns.

    • Olá, Peter. That’s because the verb preocupar is used reflexively and pensar isn’t. More on reflexive verbs here (I think you’ve already seen this, in the meantime): Reflexive Pronouns

  • Yes, I’m there now. Scary stuff! Amazingly, after studying French for many years in school, the concept of reflexive verbs and clitic and tonic pronouns was never covered. I checked and these same concepts exist in French, which makes me realize just how poor my French classes were. You guys should adapt your site for other languages! 🙂

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