It’s time to learn an essential component of French grammar – pronouns. Now don’t be put off by how many there are in French, we can assure you they’re totally manageable! That being said, things can get confusing so we decided to compile them all in this clear and simple guide to give you a helping hand.
Ready to boost your grammar skills with the help of French pronouns? Then let’s get to it!
Pronoms personnels (personal pronouns) act as a replacement for nouns. They refer either to people (who) or things (what), and take on a variety of different forms depending on whether they correspond to a subject or an object.
Personal Subject Pronouns
Also known as pronoms personnels sujets, these are the most basic pronouns which majorly contribute towards conjugation in French. They replace the subject in a sentence, and can be used when talking about someone whose name is unknown or to avoid repetition.
|English Meaning||Subject Pronoun|
Michelle se repose car elle est fatiguée (Michelle is resting as she is tired)
Also known as pronoms disjoints/toniques, their purpose is to place emphasis on the speaker or whoever is being spoken about. Let’s see in which instances they’re used.
If a sentence is comprised of more than one subject
Vous et moi devrions regarder un film ensemble (You and I should watch a film together)
Tu es assis derrière elle (You are sitting behind her)
Following C’est / Ce sont
C’est nous qui t’avons oublié (It’s us who forgot you)
Becca est plus douce que lui (Becca is sweeter than him)
J’y vais, et vous? (I’m going, are you?)
To imply possession
C’est leur chat (This is their cat)
From all these examples, let’s curate a table for French stressed pronouns.
|English Pronouns||French Pronouns||Usage|
|Me||Moi||First person singular|
|You||Toi||Second person singular|
|Him/Her/Oneself||Lui/Elle/Soi||Third person singular|
|Us||Nous||First person plural|
|You||Vous||Second person plural|
|Them||Eux/Elles||Third person plural|
Reflexive pronouns ( pronoms réfléchis ) are always accompanied by a reflexive verb and agree with the subject. Reflexive verbs depict an action that someone does to themselves. Reflexive pronouns are always placed between the subject and the verb.
|English Meaning||Reflexive Pronoun|
|I am||Je me|
|You are||Tu te|
|He is / She is||Il/Elle se|
|We are||Nous nous|
|You are||Vous vous|
|They are||Ils/Elles se|
Il s’habille maintenant (He’s getting dressed now)
Direct Object Pronouns
Direct object pronouns ( pronoms objets directs ) replace the object (who/what) of the verb in a sentence. They are always placed before the verb in question, and have to agree with the gender and number of the object.
|English Meaning||French Meaning||Usage|
|Me||Me/m’||First singular person|
|You||Te/t’||Second singular person|
|He/Her/It||Le/La/L’||Third person singular|
|Us||Nous||First person plural|
|You||Vous||Second person plural|
|Them||Les||Third person plural|
Tu as vu la robe en premier, mais je l’achète (You saw the dress first, but I’m buying it)
Indirect Object Pronouns
The way to distinguish these from the direct object pronouns is to remember that indirect object pronouns ( pronoms objets indirects ) only replace the object (who/what) in a sentence when they’re before a preposition.
|English Meanings||French Indirect Object Pronouns|
|To him / To her||Lui|
Elle leur donnera les clés (She will give them the keys)
If you look carefully, the third person singular ( Le/La/L’ and Lui ) and the third person plural ( Les and Leur ) of direct and indirect pronouns are the most different. Keep an eye out for them as to not mix them up!
Watch the video below for a quick recap on Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns
While personal pronouns agree with the grammatical person, impersonal pronouns ( pronoms impersonnels ) do not.
Relative pronouns ( pronoms relatifs ) act as conjunctions between a main clause ( proposition principale ) and a subordinate clause ( proposition subordonnée )
Replaces the subject (a person or a thing) in the subordinate clause.
Elle voudrait quelqu’un qui croit en elle
(She would like someone who believes in her)
Replaces de + person/thing in a subordinate clause.
Le noir est la seule chose dont j’ai peur instead of Le noir est la seule chose j’ai peur de which is incorrect.
(The dark is the only thing that I’m afraid of)
Replaces an indirect object that comes after a preposition.
Quelle pomme veux-tu? Laquelle veux-tu?
(Which apple do you want? Which one do you want?)
Used to refer to a place.
Où se trouvent les toilettes?
(Where is the bathroom?)
Replaces the direct object in a subordinate clause.
C’est la bague qu’il a donnée
(That’s the ring that he gave)
When it comes to indefinite pronouns ( pronoms indéfinis ) they can act as the subject of a sentence, a preposition or as an object of a verb. They’re basically multi-purpose which couldn’t be more useful! Let’s look at a few:
|English Meanings||French Meanings|
|everyone||tout le monde|
Je ne vois rien (I don’t see anything) -> rien is the indefinite pronoun
Since there is no such thing as these in English, they unfortunately can’t be directly translated for the sake of easier understanding. That being said, they might sound tricky to get your head around but they are pretty straightforward when you get to the bottom of them.
‘ Y ‘
This adverbial pronoun ( pronom adverbial ) replaces any indirect object only if it’s introduced by à (+ its variants = à l’, à la, au, aux ). It’s always placed before the conjugated verb.
Two instances in which this pronoun is used:
a) replacing a designated place (most common)
b) inanimate objects
J’étudie à Berlin -> J’y étudie
(I study in Berlin) -> (I study there)
‘ En ‘
En replaces any indirect object only if it’s introduced by de ( + its variants = du, de la, de l’, des )
Il écrit deux lettres -> Il en écrit deux
(He writers two letters) -> (He writes two of them)
It can also be used to replace a designated place.
Il vient du magasin -> Il en vient
(He comes from the shop) -> (He comes from there)
Impersonal Subject Pronouns
There are two impersonal subject pronouns which are used in French: ce and il. The first one is usually used in an informal context, and both replace the impersonal pronoun “it”.
C’est fait (It is done)
And that brings the chapter on French pronouns to an end!
See you next lesson – and in the meantime, don’t forget to practice! If you do need any help, don’t hesitate to get into contact with one of our online French Tutors.