Se Trouver vs Se Retrouver – French Mistakes to Avoid

Are you wondering about the difference between “on se trouve” and “on se retrouve”? If so, you’re not alone — it’s a subtle, but very common, mistake.

The verb “se retrouver” is so weird! It uses both:

  • The pronominal “se”
  • The prefix -re

How do you use it? What are its different meanings? What’s the difference between “se retrouver” and “se trouver” ? Let’s find out, in today’s lesson.

I’m Géraldine, your French teacher. Welcome to Comme une Française.

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1) On se trouve

Se trouver is made up of se (reflexive pronoun) + trouver (to find).

The first meaning for “On se trouve” is: “We’re located in…” (literally, “We find ourselves in…”)

For example:
Ça dépend d’où on se trouve.” = It depends on where we are.

This meaning of “se trouver” is always pronominal, and the pronoun changes to match the subject. For example, with “vous” we would say:

Vous vous trouvez devant une maison très ancienne.
= “You’re standing in front of a very old house!”

A second meaning for “On se trouve” is “we find ourselves [adjective],” as in “We think we are [adjective]” / “We feel [adjective].”

For example:
On se trouve belles.
= We think we’re pretty / We feel pretty.

For this meaning, you can change “se” to another reflexive pronoun to match the subject of your sentence. For example, if you’re only referring to yourself, you would say…

Je me trouve belle.
= I think I’m pretty / I feel pretty.

Or (for this meaning, again), you can also change the pronoun to refer to someone or something else:

On te trouve sympa. = We find you nice. / We think you’re nice.
Je nous trouve cools. = I find us cool. / I think we’re cool.

In French, “Si ça se trouve” also means “perhaps.”

Si ça se trouve, elle va chanter. = Perhaps she’ll sing.

2) On se retrouve

Se retrouver is similar to se trouver, but the prefix re- means “again”. So, on se retrouve is used for “we meet again” — or “we meet up.

For example:
On se retrouve chez toi ?” = Shall we meet up at your place?
On se retrouvera !” = We’ll meet again!

Figuratively, “On se retrouve…” also means “we end up.

For example:
On se retrouvera à Amiens si on continue. = We’ll end up in the city of Amiens if we keep going.
Et maintenant on se retrouve tout seul. = And now we end up alone.

Or even:
On se retrouve à faire toute la présentation ! = We end up making the whole presentation!

That’s a common structure that you’ll often hear in everyday spoken French!

Would you like a more in-depth look at the verb “trouver,” specifically? (It’s a really complex verb.) If so, please tell me in the comments!

Go “behind the scenes” of French grammar:
– Explore another verbal expression that we use all the time in modern French: S’en aller
– Learn more about the prefix “re-” with my lesson, Never say “Bonjour” twice (in a day)

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next lesson!


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Join the conversation!

  • I find it interesting that « on se trouve belles » has plural agreement on the adjective. I know « on » can mean « we », but I thought it was still considered singular like saying « one » in English, as in « one finds herself pretty ». I did not know that an adjective following « on+verbe » needed plural agreement.

  • In French there are so many ways to say meet up (again) – faire rendez-vous (more for an appointment I think), se voir, se reunir etc. I find it useful to become confident in using a just couple at first. Se retrouver I like, it has a nice sound to it.

  • I always find verbs in french beginning with “re” confusing. In the above video, for example ,it was explained that it means “again” and then there were examples of its use where the translations of the phrases did not have the idea of repetition. Similarly confused with joindre and rejoindre, sentir and ressentir etc

    • Hi Chris!

      Yeah, sorry, French language is confusing.
      If you will, “Re-” means “again” kind of like “up” means “in an upward direction.” = it’s true, but there are a ton of exceptions.

      “Retrouver” can mean “Meet again” as in “On se retrouvera !” = “We’ll meet again / I’ll find you again!” But it can mean other related things as well.

      But it’s true, joindre / rejoindre, and especially sentir / ressentir have a more subtle relationship.
      We might make a lesson about it at some point 🙂

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Merci beaucoup Géraldine! I love how you enunciate the words and we can read it, and then you repeat the phrase in a way you would really use it. C’est génial et aussi cool 🤓

  • Merci beaucoup Géraldine! I love how you enunciate the words and we can read it, and then you repeat the phrase in a way you would really use it. C’est génial et aussi cool

  • Merci, J’ai trouvé cet article très intéressant et j’aimerais en savoir plus sur les différents usages du mot «trouver»

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