French Pronouns Top Ten Questions

French Pronouns Top Ten Questions

Types of French pronouns:  All you need to know

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Question:  How can you tell the difference between a DIRECT OBJECT and an INDIRECT OBJECT?

Answer:  DIRECT OBJECTS answer the questions WHO? WHAT? QUI? QUOI?

Answer:  INDIRECT OBJECTS answer the questions TO WHOM? FOR WHOM? À QUI / POUR QUI?

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Question:  What are some common verbs that are followed by À and that take an indirect object?

Answer:  Here are some common ones.  Notice that many of these verbs do NOT need an indirect object in English.

acheter à / pour to buy for… J’achète des cadeaux pour mes amis.

Je leur achète des cadeaux.

emprunter à to borrow from… J’emprunte de l’argent à mon ami.

Je lui emprunte de l’argent.

prêter à to loan to… Je prête ma voiture à mon frère.

Je lui prête ma voiture.

offrir à to give / to offer to… J’offre des fleurs à ma copine.

Je lui offre des fleurs.

rendre à to return something to… Je rends son livre à Pierre.

Je lui rends son livre.

donner à to give to… Je donne à manger aux enfants.

Je leur donne à manger.

vendre à to sell to… Je vends des biscuits aux enseignants.

Je leur vends des biscuits.

parler à to speak to… Je parle à mon père.

Je lui parle.

demander à to ask… Je demande la permission à mon professeur.

Je lui demande la permission.

dire à to say to… Je dis oui à mon fiancé.

Je lui dis oui.

téléphoner à to call on the phone… Je téléphone aux contributeurs.

Je leur téléphone.

écrire à to write to… J’écris une lettre à ma grand-mère.

Je lui écris une lettre.

sourire à to smile at… Je souris aux étudiants.

Je leur souris.

répondre à to reply to… Je réponds à Julie.

Je lui réponds.

souhaiter à to wish to… Je souhaite de Joyeuses Fêtes aux voisins.

Je leur souhaite de Joyeuses Fêtes.

envoyer à to send to… J’envoie un courriel à ma copine.

Je lui envoie un courriel.

laisser à to leave something to… Je laisse des devoirs à mes élèves.

Je leur laisse des devoirs.

présenter à to introduce to… Je présente mon fiancé à mes parents.

Je leur présente mon fiancé.

servir à to serve to… Je sers de l’eau aux jardiniers.

Je leur sers de l’eau.

raconter à to tell a story to… Je raconte une histoire aux enfants.

Je leur raconte une histoire.


Question:  Is LUI both masculine and feminine when used as an indirect object pronoun or are there exceptions to the rule?

Answer:  When used as an indirect object pronoun LUI can mean HIM or HER and there are no exceptions.

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Question:  How can you know if ME, TE, NOUS and VOUS are reflexive, direct or indirect pronouns?

Answer:  REFLEXIVE:  Look at the subject of the sentence.  If the pronoun indicates that the subject is doing something to himself it is reflexive.

Answer:  DIRECT or INDIRECT?  If the subject of the sentence indicates that someone is doing something to someone or something else it may be DIRECT or INDIRECT.  Here’s how to tell the difference:

Does the pronoun answer WHO or WHAT?  It is DIRECT.

Does the pronoun answer TO WHOM or FOR WHOM?  It is INDIRECT.

This is why it is a good idea to know which verbs must be followed by À (see # 2).


Question:  What is the order to follow when using more than one pronoun in a sentence?


te le
nous la lui
vous les leur y en

Question:  What is the order of pronouns in affirmative commands?


le moi nous
la toi vous
les lui leur y en

Question:  What is the BODY PART rule with reflexive verbs?

Answer:  BODY PART RULE: Don’t make agreement between the subject and past participle when using reflexive verbs if the past participle is followed by a direct object (a body part).

Example:  Elle s’est lavé les mains.

Even though ÊTRE is the helping verb you don’t need to make agreement.  


Question:  Concerning the BODY PART RULE, what if the body part becomes a direct object pronoun?  Do I then make agreement?

Answer:  Yes.  In that case the direct object (body part) will fall before the past participle and you must make agreement.  Note that you’re making agreement with the direct object and not with the subject of the sentence.

Example:  Elle se les est lavées.


Question:  Is there an easy trick to help remember when to use French pronouns?

Answer:  Easy?  Probably not, but I’ll try!

ME Someone does something to me or for me
TE Someone does something to you or for you
NOUS Someone does something to us or for us
VOUS Someone does something to you or for you
LE Means HIM or IT if the object is singular and masculine

Don’t use LE when someone does something TO or FOR a person

LA Means HER or IT if the object is singular and feminine

Don’t use LA when someone does something TO or FOR a person

LES Means THEM whether you’re talking about people, animals or things, masculine or feminine.

Don’t use LES when someone does something to people or animals.

LUI Means HIM or HER, can refer to people or animals.

Use LUI when someone is doing something TO or FOR someone.

LEUR Means THEM, masculine or feminine people or animals.

Use LEUR when someone is doing something TO or FOR someone.

Y Means THERE or IT, can refer to places or things (not people).

Use Y when you have a PREPOSITION followed by a place or thing.

Don’t use Y when the preceding PREPOSITION is any form of DE.


Use EN in the following situations:

  • DE LA, DU, DES, DE L’, DE, D’ + noun
  • ANY NUMBER (including UN – UNE) + noun

Question:  I thought LUI could only be masculine.

Answer:  When LUI is used as an indirect object pronoun it means HIM or HER.

When LUI is used as a stress pronoun it means HIM and ELLE means HER.

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