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Direct and indirect pronouns in French

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Presentation

A pronoun replaces a noun or a nominal group.

collègue : a noun
un collègue sympa : a nominal group
un collègue de travail : a nominal group

When you don’t want to repeat a word many times (which is boring), you replace it with a pronoun.

J’ai un collègue. Ce collègue est sympa et efficace. Je parle souvent à ce collègue et j’écoute toujours ce collègue.

> In this sentence you have too many repetitions of “collègue”. let’s transform it :

J’ai un collègue, il est sympa et efficace. Je lui parle souvent et je l’écoute toujours.

direct and indirect The repetitions have been replaced by different pronouns :

  • il is a subject pronoun
  • lui    is an indirect pronoun
  • l’      is a direct pronoun

Now you know why we use pronouns, let’s learn when we use direct and indirect pronouns.

Indirect pronouns

Indirect pronouns replace indirect objects.
An indirect object is a nominal group that is connected to the verb through the preposition à.

Je parle  à ma nouvelle collègue.
> Je lui parle.

J’obéis à mon chef.
> Je lui obéis.

Je fais confiance à tous mes collègues.
> Je leur fais confiance.

You can ask the question: Je parle à qui? (I talk to whom ?)
> There is the preposition à between the verb and the object, therefore it’s an indirect object.

Unfortunately, sometimes a French verb uses the preposition à, but the equivalent verb in English doesn’t have a preposition. That can be confusing for you :
Je téléphone à mon ami – I phone my friend (and not I phone to my friend).
So, you need to know the French verbs that use the preposition à before an indirect object:

For example :
téléphoner à, parler à, obéir à, manquer à, plaire à, écrire à, sourire à, ressembler à, faire confiance à etc.

direct and indirect

Direct pronouns

Direct pronouns replace direct objects.
A direct object is a nominal group that is directly connected to the verb without a preposition.

Je comprends mon collègue.
> Je le comprends.

J’écoute ce collègue.
> Je l’écoute.

Je comprends l’opinion de mon collègue.
> Je la comprends.

J’écoute mes collègues de travail.
> Je les écoute.

You can ask the question: Je comprends qui? Je comprends quoi? (I understand who? I understand what?)
> There is NO preposition between the verb and the object , therefore it’s a direct object.

Summary

 masculine
singular
feminine
singular
Plural
masculine and feminine
 
Direct pronounsle
l' (before a vowel)
la
l' (before a vowel)
les
Indirect pronounsluiluileur

Good to know

Many verbs accept both indirect and direct objects :

Il écrit un mail à son chef.

“un mail” is direct: il écrit quoi? > un mail (He writes what? > an e-mail).
” à son chef” is indirect: il écrit à qui? > à son chef (He writes to whom? > to his boss).
You can replace these objects with their pronouns :

Il lui écrit un mail (He writes an e-mail to him)
Il l’écrit à son chef (He writes it to his boss)
And even :
Il le lui écrit   🙂   (He writes it to him.)

In French, the pronouns are BEFORE the verb.

Voilà! I hope this lesson is clear to you. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions!
A bientôt.
Elsa

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