Object Pronouns

Just like subject pronouns are used to represent subjects, you can use object pronouns to represent objects. This way, you don't have to repeat the proper words of nouns over and over in conversation. You can use object pronouns to represent these nouns, in some cases making your sentences considerably shorter.

In English, the most common object pronoun is “it.” It is used in a variety of senses, and sometimes you don't even realize it's being used. It represents a noun and in the sentence becomes a shorthand way of referring to that noun so you don't have to keep repeating the same words over and over.

Remember that a pronoun has to link back to a specific noun in some way in order to define it; a pronoun used without this relationship has no meaning at all.

Direct Object Pronouns

When a noun is being used in a sentence as the direct object, the following object pronouns are used.

Table 9-4

French Direct Object Pronouns

Person

Singular

Plural

1st Person

me

nous

2nd Person

te

vous

3rd Person Masculine

le

les

3rd Person Feminine

la

les

When these pronouns are used to replace a noun in a sentence, they are inserted before the verb. This is much different from English, which tends to maintain the normal word order and places the pronoun after the verb:

<tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Est-ce que tu conduis cette voiture?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Do you drive this car?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Oui, je la conduis</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Yes, I drive it.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>When a singular object pronoun appears before a verb that begins with a vowel, it contracts with the verb; simply drop the vowel from the end of the pronoun and add an apostrophe:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Avez-vous vu mon père?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Have you seen my father?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Non, nous ne l'avons pas vu</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>No, we have not seen him.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>When the object pronoun is used with an infinitive, the pronoun is placed directly before it. Be careful that you don't distort the meaning of sentences by accidentally placing your object pronoun with a conjugated verb instead of with the infinitive where it should be:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Vas-tu finir tes devoirs?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Are you going to finish your homework?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Oui, je vais les finir</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Yes, I am going finish it.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>Remember that you can't translate object pronouns directly from one language to the other; the preceding example is a good illustration of one of the reasons it doesn't work.</p> <p>Some French verbs handle objects differently than English does. Therefore, you have to get to the heart of the true meaning of the sentence before you can start translating any words. You can get away with it when translating a lot of sentences that use actual nouns, but when object pronouns are used, sentences get a little more complicated. As long as you remember to identify which noun is which before you translate, you should have few problems.</p> <h2>Indirect Object Pronouns</h2> <p>In English, we tend to use the same object pronouns for both the direct and indirect object, using prepositions or word order to convey the intended meaning. This is not the case in French. The object pronouns differ slightly and are not interchangeable, but the only actual difference is in the third person formation.</p> <p><B>Table 9-5</B></p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <h2>French Indirect Object Pronouns</h2> <tgroup cols="3"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="40%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="30%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col3" colnum="3" colwidth="30%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><B>Person</B></p></td> <td><p><B>Singular</B></p></td> <td><p><B>Plural</B></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>1st Person</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>me</emphasis></p></td> <td><p><emphasis>nous</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>2nd Person</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>te</emphasis></p></td> <td><p><emphasis>vous</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>3rd Person (m and f)</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>lui</emphasis></p></td> <td><p><emphasis>leur</emphasis></p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>There is really no gender distinction in the third person for indirect object pronouns; the same word suffices for both. In addition, the other forms don't modify to agree with gender, just like the subject pronouns. Don't confuse the object pronouns with possessive adjectives, which must agree in gender and number with their counterpart nouns.</p> <p>If you try to translate the following sentences word for word, it doesn't work. You have to study the sentence to determine which word is the direct object and which is the indirect object. The word order doesn't help you in French; all object pronouns follow a certain order, no matter what they are being used to represent. The meaning comes from the verb and the context of the sentence.</p> <p>Normally, the preposition <emphasis>à</emphasis> is used to introduce the noun that represents the indirect object in the sentence. When a pronoun is used instead before the conjugated form of the verb, it replaces both the noun and the preposition, so the preposition disappears from the sentence.</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Mon copain le donne à mon père</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>My friend is giving it to my father.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Mon copain le lui donne</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>My friend is giving it to him.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>The indirect object pronoun replaces the preposition à entirely. With other prepositions, you use the disjunctive pronoun to replace an object referring to a person; in this case, the preposition remains in the same place in the sentence.</p> <h2>Disjunctive Pronouns</h2> <p>Disjunctive pronouns are another set of object pronouns. They are similar to the other object pronouns, but vary in the formation of the third person.</p> <p><B>Table 9-6</B></p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <h2>French Disjunctive Pronouns</h2> <tgroup cols="3"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="40%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="30%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col3" colnum="3" colwidth="30%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><B>Person</B></p></td> <td><p><B>Singular</B></p></td> <td><p><B>Plural</B></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>1st Person</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>moi</emphasis></p></td> <td><p><emphasis>nous</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>2nd Person</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>toi</emphasis></p></td> <td><p><emphasis>vous</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>3rd Person Masculine</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>lui</emphasis></p></td> <td><p><emphasis>eux</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>3rd Person Feminine</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>elle</emphasis></p></td> <td><p><emphasis>elles</emphasis></p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>Disjunctive pronouns are used with prepositions placed after the verb, as seen in the following examples:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Elle parle de Jean</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>She's talking about Jean.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Elle parle de lui</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>She's talking about him.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <sect3> <h2>For Emphasis</h2> <p>Inserting the disjunctive pronoun in the sentence can emphasize the subject or the object. When used in this sense, the pronoun doesn't actually replace the subject or object that it modifies; it is used in addition to it.</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Moi, je n'aime pas regarder la télé</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Myself, I don't like watching TV.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>Literally, this looks like “Me, I don't like watching TV,” but this translation just doesn't make that much sense in English. rather than translate the words, try to translate the sentiment involved. Perhaps the most appropriate choice in English for the above sentence is “I don't like watching TV, myself.”</p> <p>When used to complement the subject, these pronouns may be placed either at the beginning or the end of the sentence. When used to complement an object, however, the disjunctive pronoun used for emphasis is always placed at the end. The fact that either the subject or the object can appear at the end of the sentence shouldn't cause too much of a problem for you. To tell which is which, simply look at the subject. If the disjunctive pronoun matches it in gender and number, the emphasis is on the subject; if they don't, you'll find they match the object.</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Je ne l'ai pas vu, moi</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>I didn't see him, myself.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Oui, je l'ai vu, lui</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Yes, I saw him.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> </sect3> <sect3> <h2>To Form Compound Subjects or Objects</h2> <p>The disjunctive pronoun can be used with another noun at the beginning of a sentence. When this happens, the noun is placed first, with the disjunctive pronoun following it. In the first or second person, the subject pronoun is used with the verb, separated from the preceding noun and disjunctive pronoun with a comma. They are joined together using the conjunction <emphasis>et</emphasis>:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Jean et moi, nous allons au cinéma</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>John and I, we are going to the movies.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Toi et moi, nous avons toujours été de vrais amis</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>You and I, we have always been true friends.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>When used as objects, the noun is placed first with the pronoun placed after it:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Il a téléphoné à Jacques et moi</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>He called Jacques and me.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>You can also use two disjunctive pronouns to form a compound subject or object; these are joined with the conjunction <emphasis>et</emphasis>:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Toi et moi allons aller</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>You and I are going to go</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>à Paris avec lui</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>to Paris with him.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> </sect3> <sect3> <h2>Alone in Response to a Question</h2> <p>The subject pronoun can never appear without a verb, but a disjunctive pronoun can. For that reason, when responding to a question when you just want the answer to be something like “me” or “him,” the disjunctive pronoun is the appropriate choice:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Qui fait ça?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Who is doing that?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Moi</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Me.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> </sect3> <sect3> <h2>In Conjunction with Certain Verb Phrases, When Used to Indicate a Person</h2> <p>The disjunctive pronoun is placed after verbs using the preposition <emphasis>à</emphasis>.</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>être à</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>to belong to someone</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>faire attention à</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>to pay attention to someone</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>penser à</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>to think about someone</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>donner à</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>to give something to someone</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>tenir à</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>to be attached to someone</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>Here are some examples:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Je n'aime pas le professeur</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>I don't like the professor.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Il ne fait jamais attention à moi</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>He never pays attention to me.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Je pense souvent à lui</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>I often think about him.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>The disjunctive pronoun can be used with only the preceding verbs when a person is the object. If the object happens to be a thing, a special pronoun, <emphasis>y</emphasis>, is used (covered later in this chapter).</p> </sect3> <sect3> <h2>To Make Comparisons Between People</h2> <p>When used in this sense, the disjunctive pronoun is used with the conjunction <emphasis>que</emphasis>, which carries the meaning of “than” and is placed at the end of the sentence:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Il est plus intelligent que moi</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>He is smarter than I.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> </sect3> <sect3> <h2>To Indicate “Myself” or Its Equivalent</h2> <p>The disjunctive pronoun can be used with -<emphasis>même</emphasis> added to the end of it to represent the English usage of words like “<emphasis>myself</emphasis>,” “himself,” or “themselves.” This isn't an exact equivalent; rather, the -<emphasis>même</emphasis> ending reinforces and amplifies the disjunctive pronoun, so the most appropriate English translation is usually a variation of “myself”:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Il l'a fait lui-même</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>He did it himself.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>In English, we also use words like “myself” or “yourself” in conjunction with verbs to indicate that an action is being performed by the subject, on the subject; “I am washing myself” is an example. In French, these are known as reflexive verbs.</p> </sect3> <sect3> <h2>After the Preposition De</h2> <p>When the object of the preposition <emphasis>de</emphasis> is a person, the preposition uses the corresponding disjunctive pronoun. The preposition remains in the sentence, retaining its usual location after the verb, and the disjunctive pronoun is placed immediately after it. If the disjunctive pronoun begins with a vowel, <emphasis>de</emphasis> contracts to <emphasis>d'</emphasis>.</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Est-ce que tu as parlé de Sara?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Did you talk about Sara?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Oui, j'ai parlé d'elle</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Yes, I talked about her.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>Remember that the disjunctive pronoun can be used only when referring to actual people. If things, locations, ideas, or anything else that isn't a person are used in the sentence, a disjunctive pronoun cannot be used; instead, the object pronoun <emphasis>en</emphasis> is used.</p> </sect3> <h2>The Object Pronoun En</h2> <p>When the preposition <emphasis>de</emphasis> is used with an object to indicate a thing, the object pronoun <emphasis>en</emphasis> is used to replace the preposition and the noun. <emphasis>En</emphasis> is never used in the place of people; only the disjunctive pronouns can be used if the object of the preposition <emphasis>de</emphasis> is a person:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Est-ce que tu as beaucoup de stylos?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Do you have a lot of pens?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Oui, j'en ai beaucoup</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Yes, I have many of them.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <div class="npsb"> <h2></h2> <p>If a sentence uses an expression of quantity, as with <emphasis>assez de</emphasis> or <emphasis>beaucoup de</emphasis>, or even uses a number, <emphasis>en</emphasis> replaces the noun. If the preposition <emphasis>de</emphasis> is used in the sentence, en replaces it, but if a number is used, the number remains in the sentence, in its regular position, without the noun. Here's an example: <emphasis>Il a écrit deux romans</emphasis>. (He wrote two novels.) <emphasis>C'est vrai? Il en a écrit deux?</emphasis> (Is that right? He wrote two?)</p> </div> <p>If <emphasis>de</emphasis> is being used in the partitive sense, to indicate the English equivalent of “some” or “any,” it is not a preposition; instead, it behaves like an article. Don't confuse the preposition <emphasis>de</emphasis> with the plural indefinite article <emphasis>des</emphasis>, either; if you see <emphasis>des</emphasis> being used, you know that it is not the preposition. Note that <emphasis>liaison</emphasis> is required after <emphasis>en</emphasis> and before a word beginning with a vowel.</p> <h2>The Object Pronoun Y</h2> <p>The direct object pronoun <emphasis>y</emphasis> is a versatile French word. For that reason, it can sometimes be confusing, because it can be hard to link back to a noun to give it meaning.</p> <p><emphasis>Y</emphasis> is used only when the object it represents is a thing. It can never be used to represent an actual person or even an animate object. If you come across the object pronoun y being used in either spoken or written French, you know that it must refer to some inanimate object or place that has already been referred to in the conversation or passage.</p> <p>The appropriate English translation of <emphasis>y</emphasis> is usually either “there” or “it,” depending on the particular context of the sentence. The object pronoun <emphasis>y</emphasis> is used to replace both the preposition <emphasis>à</emphasis> and a noun, much as in the way the indirect object pronouns work for people.</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Est-ce que tu es allé au magasin?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Did you go to the store?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Oui, j'y suis allé</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Yes, I went there.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Avez-vous répondu à la lettre?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Did you reply to the letter?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Non, je n'y ai pas répondu</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>No, I have not replied to it.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>When the object pronoun <emphasis>y</emphasis> represents a feminine noun, the past participle agrees if the verb is conjugated using <emphasis>avoir</emphasis>; the same holds true when it is used to replace plural nouns. Because <emphasis>y</emphasis> is an object pronoun, the past participle must agree both in gender and in number when the pronoun appears before the conjugated auxiliary verb.</p> <p>The object pronoun <emphasis>y</emphasis> doesn't stop there, either. It can also be used to replace other prepositions, such as <emphasis>dans, sous</emphasis>, and <emphasis>devant</emphasis>, which indicate location. When used in this fashion, it replaces both the preposition and noun, in the same way as with <emphasis>à</emphasis>:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="50%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Dormirez-vous dans la chambre?</emphasis></p></td> <td><p>Will you be sleeping in the bedroom?</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Oui, nous y dormirons</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>Yes, we will be sleeping there.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <!--/gc--> <div id="pagination"><ul><li class="prev"><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/objects-prepositions-and-pronouns/prepositions.htm" title="Prepositions">Prepositions</a></li><li class="next"><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/objects-prepositions-and-pronouns/object-pronouns-and-the-imperative.htm" title="Object Pronouns and the 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