French Pronouns Top Ten Questions

Simplifying French Pronouns

1.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?
2.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.
I’m buying presents for my friends.
Je leur achète des cadeaux.
I’m buying them some presents.

emprunter à
to borrow from
J’emprunte de l’argent à mon ami.
I’m borrowing money from my friend.
Je lui emprunte de l’argent.
I’m borrowing money from him.

prêter à
to loan to
Je prête ma voiture à mon frère.
I’m loaning my car to my brother.
Je lui prête ma voiture.
I’m loaning him my car.

offrir à
to give / to offer to
J’offre des fleurs à ma copine.
I’m giving flowers to my girlfriend.
Je lui offre des fleurs.
I’m giving her flowers.

rendre à
to return something to
Je rends son livre à Pierre.
I’m giving Pierre his book back.
Je lui rends son livre.
I’m giving him back his book.

donner à
to give to
Je donne à manger aux enfants.
I’m feeding the children.
Je leur donne à manger.
I’m feeding them.

vendre à
to sell to
Je vends des biscuits aux enseignants.
I’m selling cookies to the teachers.
Je leur vends des biscuits.
I’m selling them cookies.

parler à
to speak to
Je parle à mon père.
I’m speaking to my father.
Je lui parle. 
I’m speaking to him.

demander à
to ask
Je demande la permission à mon professeur.
I’m asking my teacher’s permission.
Je lui demande la permission.
I’m asking for her permission.

dire à
to say to
Je dis oui à mon fiancé.
I’m saying yes to my fiance.
Je lui dis oui.
I’m telling him yes.

téléphoner à
to call on the phone
Je téléphone aux contributeurs.
I’m calling the contributors.
Je leur téléphone.
I’m calling them.

écrire à
to write to
J’écris une lettre à ma grand-mère.
I’m writing a letter to my grandmother.
Je lui écris une lettre.
I’m writing her a letter.

sourire à
to smile at
Je souris aux étudiants.
I’m smiling at the students.
Je leur souris.
I’m smiling at them.

répondre à
to reply to
Je réponds à Julie.
I’m replying to Julie.
Je lui réponds.
I’m replying to her.

souhaiter à
to wish to
Je souhaite de Joyeuses Fêtes aux voisins.
I’m wishing the neighbors Happy Holidays.
Je leur souhaite de Joyeuses Fêtes.
I’m wishing them Happy Holidays.

envoyer à
to send to
J’envoie un courriel à ma copine.
I’m sending an email to my friend.
Je lui envoie un courriel.
I’m sending her an email.

laisser à
to leave something to / for
Je laisse des devoirs à mes élèves.
I’m leaving homework for my students.
Je leur laisse des devoirs. 
I’m leaving them homework.

présenter à
to introduce to
Je présente mon fiancé à mes parents.
I’m introducing my fiance to my parents.
Je leur présente mon fiancé.
I’m introducing my fiance to them.

servir à
to serve to
Je sers de l’eau aux jardiniers.
I’m serving the gardeners some water.
Je leur sers de l’eau.
I’m serving them some water.

raconter à
to tell a story to
Je raconte une histoire aux enfants.
I’m telling the children a story.
Je leur raconte une histoire. 
I’m telling them a story.
3.
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.
4.
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).
5.
Question:  What is the order to follow when using more
than one pronoun in a sentence?

Answer:

ME – TE – NOUS – VOUS
followed by
LE – LA – LES
followed by
LUI – LEUR
followed by
Y
followed by
EN
6.
Question:  What is the order of pronouns in affirmative
commands?

Answer:

LE – LA – LES
followed by
MOI – TOI – LUI
followed by
NOUS – VOUS – LEUR
followed by
Y
followed by
EN
7.
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.  
8.
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
9.
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.

EN
Means SOME (OF THEM), ANY or ONE
Use EN in the following situations:
DE LA, DU, DES, DE L’, DE, D’ + noun
ANY NUMBER (including UN – UNE) + noun
EXPRESSIONS OF QUANTITY + DE + noun
10.
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 stressed pronoun it means HIM and
ELLE means HER.



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