French Lessons- French Pronouns

French Pronouns

Subject Pronouns

pronoun is a word that is used to replace a noun (a person, place, thing, idea, or quality). Pronouns allow for fluidity by eliminating the need to constantly repeat the same noun in a sentence. A subject pronoun replaces a subject noun(the noun performing the action of the verb). Je Unlike the English pronoun “I,” the pronoun je is capitalized only when it begins a sentence. Je becomes j’ before a vowel or vowel sound ( y and unaspiratedh — meaning that no puff of air is emitted when producing the h sound):
  • J’adore le français. (I love French.)
  • Voilà où j’habite. (There’s where I live.)
Tu Tu is used to address one friend, relative, child, or pet and is referred to as the familiar form of “you.” The u from tu is never dropped for purposes of elision: Tu es mon meilleur ami. (You are my best friend.) Vous Vous is used in the singular to show respect to an older person or when speaking to a stranger or someone you do not know very well.Vous is the polite or formal form of “you:” Vous êtes un patron très respecté. (You are a very respected boss.) In addition, vous is always used when speaking to more than one person, regardless of the degree of familiarity. Il and elle Il (he) and elle (she) may refer to a person or to a thing (it):
  • L’homme arrive. (The man arrives.) Il arrive. (He arrives.)
  • Le colis arrive. (The package arrives.) Il arrive. (It arrives.)
  • La dame arrive. (The lady arrives.) Elle arrive. (She arrives.)
  • La lettre arrive. (The letter arrives.) Elle arrive. (It arrives.)
On On refers to an indefinite person: you, we, they, or people in general.On is often used in place of nous, such as in the following: on part(we’re leaving). Ils and elles Ils refers to more than one male or to a combined group of males and females, despite the number of each gender present. Elles refers only to a group of females.
  • Anne et Luc partent. (Ann and Luke leave.) Ils partent. (They leave.)
  • Anne et Marie partent. (Ann and Marie leave.) Elles partent. (They leave.)
Ce The pronoun ce (it, he, she, this, that, these, those), spelled c’ before a vowel, is most frequently used with the verb être (to be): c’est (it is) orce sont (they are). Ce replaces ilelleils, and elles as the subject of the sentence in the following constructions:
  • Before a modified noun:C’est un bon avocat. (He’s a good lawyer.)
But, when unmodified, the following is correct: Il est avocat. (He’s a lawyer.)
  • Before a name:C’est Jean. (It’s John.)
  • Before a pronoun:C’est moi. (It is me.)
  • Before a superlative:C’est le plus grand. (It’s the biggest.)
  • In dates:C’est le dix mars.(It’s March 10th.)
  • Before a masculine singular adjective that refers to a previously mentioned idea or action:Il est important. (He is important.) C’est évident. (That’s obvious).
  • Before an adjective + à + infinitive (the form of any verb before it is conjugated): C’est bon à savoir. (That’s good to know.)
Use il in the following constructions:
  • To express the hour of the day:Il est deux heures. (It’s 2 o’clock.)
  • With an adjective + de + infinitive:Il est bon de manger. (It’s good to eat.)
  • With an adjective before queIl est important que je travaille. (It is important that I work.)

First Person Pronouns

Let’s dig right in with the first person. Remember that the first person singular form, what we would call ‘I’, is ‘je’ (pronounced Juh) while the first person is ‘nous’ (pronounced Nu). Here are our possessive adjectives:
Pronoun Masc. Fem. Plural
Je Mon (Pronounced Moh) Ma (Pronounced Ma) Mes (Pronounced Meh)
Nous Notre (Pronounced Not-rah) Notre Nos (Pronounced Noh)
Now let’s practice with those. If you are trying to say ‘my bag,’ you’d say mon sac, since ‘sac’ (pronounced sac) is a masculine singular work. Meanwhile, if you are talking about more than one bag that you happened to have ownership of, then it would be mes sacs. Let’s say that you actually shared those bags with your friends. In that case, if it were just the one bag you’d saynotre sac, while if you had more than one, it would be nos sacs. What if it wasn’t a sac? What if it was a suitcase, or une valise (pronounced va-leez)? What would you say then? Again, if it were yours, you’d say ma valise. If it were plural, it would change to ‘mes valises.’ If you and your friends owned the suitcases, the possessive adjective wouldn’t change.

Second Person Pronouns

Now let’s talk about someone else’s suitcases and bags. Let’s pretend that you were talking to me about my stuff. That would mean that you’d have to use the second person, or the ‘tu’ or ‘vous’ forms. Let’s start by looking at a table with the forms:
Pronoun Masc. Fem. Plural
Tu Ton (pronounced Toh) Ta (Pronounced Ta) Tes (Pronounced Teh)
Vous Votre (pronounced vot-rah) Votre Vos (pronounced Voh)
Let’s try some of them. If you were to say ‘your bag’ to me, you’d say ton sac. Likewise, if you were commenting on multiple bags, you’d say tes sacs. However, if it was my suitcase you were referring to, it would be ta valise. What if you were addressing more than one person, or you were trying to show me a lot of respect? In that case, you’d use ‘votre’ adjectives. So you’d say votre sac or vos sacs. Also, just like ‘notre,’ there’s only one singular form, so even if it was my suitcase, you’d still say ‘votre valise.’   Object pronouns are used so that an object noun doesn’t have to be continuously repeated. This allows for a more free‐flowing conversational tone. When using object pronouns, make sure your conjugated verb agrees with the subject and not the object pronoun. Table 1 lists direct and indirect object pronouns. The forms me, te, se, nous, and vous are both direct, indirect object, and reflexive pronouns.

Direct object pronouns

Direct objects (which can be nouns or pronouns) answer the question as to whom or what the subject is acting upon. It may refer to people, places, things, or ideas. A direct object pronoun replaces a direct object noun and, unlike in English, is usually placed before the conjugated verb.
  • Tu regardes le film. (You watch the movie.): Tu le regardes. (You watch it.)
  • Je t’aime. (I love you.)
  • Tu m’aimes. (You love me.)

Indirect object pronouns

Indirect objects (which can be nouns or pronouns) answer the question of to or for whom the subject is doing something. They refer only to people. An indirect object pronoun replaces an indirect object noun, and, unlike in English, is usually placed before the conjugated verb. As a clue, look for the preposition à (to, for), which may be in the form of au (the contraction of à + le, à l’, à la, or aux (the contraction of à + les), followed by the name or reference to a person.
  • Elle écrit à Jean. (She writes to John.): Elle lui écrit. (She writes to him.)
  • Tu m’offres un sac à main. (You offer me a purse.)
  • Je t’offre un sac à main. (I offer you a purse.)
Verbs that take an indirect object in English do not necessarily take an indirect object in French. The following verbs take a direct object in French:
  • attendre (to wait for)
  • chercher (to look for)
  • écouter (to listen to)
  • espérer (to hope for/to)
  • faire venir (to call for)
  • payer (to pay)
Verbs that take a direct object in English do not necessarily take a direct object in French. The following verbs take an indirect object in French because they are followed by à:
  • convenir à (to suit)
  • désobéir à (to disobey)
  • faire honte à (to shame)
  • faire mal à (to hurt)
  • faire peur à (to frighten)
  • obéir à (to obey)
  • plaire à (to please)
  • répondre à (to answer)
  • ressembler à (to resemble)
  • téléphoner à (to call)
The expression penser à (to think about) is followed by a stress pronoun; for example, Je pense à lui/elle. (I think about him/her). The following verbs require an indirect object because they are followed by à. Note the correct preposition to use before the infinitive of the verb.
  • apprendre (teach) à quelqu’un à + infinitive
  • enseigner (teach) à quelqu’un à + infinitive
  • conseiller (advise) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
  • défendre (forbid) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
  • demander (ask) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
  • ordonner (order) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
  • pardonner (forgive) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
  • permettre (permit) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
  • promettre (promise) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
  • rappeler (remind) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
  • reprocher (reproach) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
With the French verbs plaire (to please), falloir (to be necessary), and manquer (to miss), the French indirect object is the subject in the English sentence:
  • Ce cadeau me plaît. (I like this gift. This gift is pleasing to me.)
  • Il me faut un stylo. (I need a pen. A pen is necessary for me.)
  • Tu me manques. (I miss you. I am missing to you.)
The adverbial pronoun (y) The adverbial pronoun y (pronounced ee) means “there” when the place has already been mentioned. Y can also mean “it,” “them,” “in it/them,” “to it/them,” or “on it/them.” Y usually replaces the preposition à + the noun object of the preposition, but it may also replace other prepositions of location or position, such as chez (at the house/business of) , dans (in) , en (in), sous (under), or sur (on) + noun:
  • Je vais à Paris. (I’m going to Paris.) J’y vais. (I’m going there.)
  • Il répond à la note. (He answers the note.) Il y répond. (He answers it.)
  • Tu restes dans ton lit. (You stay in the hotel.) Tu y restes. (You stay in it.)
Y is used to replace de + noun only when de is part of a prepositional phrase showing location: L’hôtel est près de l’aéroport. (The hotel is near the airport.) L’hôtel y est. (The hotel is there.) Never use y to replace à + a person. Indirect object pronouns are used for this purpose: Je parle à Luc. (I speak to Luke.) Je lui parle. (I speak to him.) Sometimes y is used in French but is not translated into English: Il va au cinéma? (Is he going to the movies?) Oui, il y va. (Yes, he is.) The adverbial pronoun (en) The pronoun en refers to previously mentioned things or places. Enusually replaces de + noun and may mean some or any, of it/them, about it/them, from it/them, or from there:
  • Je veux de la glace. (I want some ice cream.) J’en veux. (I want some [of it]).
  • Tu ne bois pas de lait. (You don’t drink any milk.) Tu n’en bois pas. (You don’t drink any.)
  • Il parle de l’examen. (He speaks about the test.) Il en parle. (He speaks about it.)
  • Vous sortez du café. (You leave the cafe.) Vous en sortez. (You leave [from] it.)
En is always expressed in French even though it may have no Engish equivalent or is not expressed in English: Astu du temps? (Do you have any time?) Oui, j’en ai. (Yes, I do.) Note the following rules governing the use of en:
  • En is used with idiomatic expressions requiringde.
    • J’ai besoin de film. (I need film.) J’en ai besoin. (I need some.)
  • Enis used to replace a noun (de + noun) after a number or a noun or adverb of quantity.
    • Je prépare six gâteaux. (I’m preparing six cakes.) J’en prépare six. (I’m preparing six [of them].)
    • Tu bois une tasse de thé. (You drink a cup of tea.) Tu en bois. (You drink a cup [of it].)
  • Enonly refers to people when de means some. In all other cases (when de + a noun mean “of” or “about” a person), a stress pronoun is used.
    • I have a lot of sons. (J’ai beaucoup de fils.) I have a lot of them. (J’en ai beaucoup.)
The position of object pronouns An object pronoun is placed before the verb to which its meaning is tied, usually before the conjugated verb. When a sentence contains two verbs, the object pronoun is placed before the infinitive:
  • Je le demande. (I ask for it.) Je ne le demande pas. (I don’t ask for it.)
  • Il va en boire. (He is going to drink some of it.) Il ne va pas en boire. (He isn’t going to drink some of it.)
In an affirmative command, an object pronoun is placed immediately after the verb and is joined to it by a hyphen. The familiar command forms of ‐ er verbs (regular and irregular — retain their final s before y and en to prevent the clash of two vowel sounds together. Put a liaison (linking) between the final consonant and y or enRestesy!(Stay there!) But: N’y reste pas! (Don’t stay there!) In compound tenses, the object pronoun is placed before the conjugated helping verb: J’ai parlé à Nancy. (I spoke to Nancy.) Je lui ai parlé. (I spoke to her.)

Double object pronouns

The term double object pronouns refers to using more than one pronoun in a sentence at a time, as follows: The following examples show how double object pronouns are used before the conjugated verb, before the infinitive when there are two verbs, in the past tense, and in a negative command. Note the different order of the pronouns in the affirmative command:
  • Before the conjugated verb:Elle me la donne. (She gives it to me.)
  • Before the infinitive with two verbs:Vastu m’en offrir? (Are you going to offer me any?)
  • In the past tense:Tu le lui as écrit. (You wrote it to her.)
  • In a negative command:Ne me le montrez pas. (Don’t show it to me.)
But note the difference in an affirmative command: Montrezlemoi, s’il vous plaît. (Please show it to me.) In an affirmative command, m oi + en and toi + en become m’en andt’en respectively:
  • Donnem’en, s’il te plaît. (Please give me some.)
  • Va t’en. (Go away.)

Independent (Stress) Pronouns

Independent pronouns, listed in Table 1, may stand alone or follow a verb or a preposition. They are used to emphasize a fact and to highlight or replace nouns or pronouns. Independent pronouns are used as follows: To stress the subject: Moi, je suis vraiment indépendant. (Me, I’m really independent.) When the pronoun has no verb:Qui veut partir? (Who wants to leave?) Moi. (Me.) After prepositions to refer to a person or persons: Allons chez elle. (Let’s go to her house.) After c’estC’est moi qui pars. (I’m leaving.) After the following verbs:
  • avoir affaire à (to have dealings with)
  • être à (to belong to)
  • faire attention à (to pay attention to)
  • penser à (to think about [of)])
  • se fier à (to trust)
  • s’intéresser à (to be interested in)
  • Ceci est à moi. (This belongs to me.)
In compound subjects:
  • Lui et moi allons au restaurant. (He and I are going to the restaurant.)
  • Sylvie et toi dînez chez Marie. (Sylvia and you are dining at Marie’s.)
If moi is one of the stress pronouns in a compound subject, the subject pronoun nous is used in summary (someone + me = we) and the conjugated verb must agree with nous. If toi is one of the stress pronouns in a compound subject, the subject prounoun vous is used in summary (someone + you [singular] = you [plural]) and the conjugated verb must agree with the vous. Neither nous nor vous has to appear in the sentence. With  même(s) to reinforce the subject: Je suis allé au concert moimême. (I went to the concert by myself.)

Relative Pronouns

relative pronoun (“who,” “which,” or “that”) joins a main clause to a dependent clause. This pronoun introduces the dependent clause that describes someone or something mentioned in the main clause. The person or thing the pronoun refers to is called the antecedent. A relative clause may serve as a subject, a direct object, or an object of a preposition. Qui (subject) and que (direct object) Qui (“who,” “which,” “that”) is the subject of a relative clause (which means that it will be followed by a verb in the dependent clause). Qui may refer to people, things, or places and follows the format antecedent + subject + verbC’estla femmequia gagné. (She’s the woman who won.) The verb of a relative clause introduced by qui is conjugated to agree with its antecedent: C’est moi qui choisis les bons cafés. (I am the one who chooses the good cafés.) Que (“whom,” “which,” or “that”) is the direct object of a relative clause (which means that it will be followed by a noun or pronoun). Although frequently omitted in English, the relative pronoun is always expressed in French. Que may refer to people or things and follows the format antecedent + direct object + pronounC’est l’homme que j’ adore. (He’s the man [that] I love.) Qui and lequel (objects of a preposition) Qui (meaning “whom”) is used as the object of a preposition referring to a person.
  • Anne est la femme avec qui je travaille. (Anne is the woman with whom I am working.)
Lequel, laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles (“which” or “whom”) are used as the object of a preposition referring primarily to things. The form of lequel must agree with the antecedent. Select the proper form of lequel after consulting Table 1, for example, Voilà la piscine dans laquelle je nage. (There is the pool in which I swim.) Lequel and its forms contract with the prepositions à and de, as shown in Table 2: Some examples include the following:
  • Ce sont les hommes auxquels elle pense. (Those are the men she is thinking about.)
  • C’est la classe de laquelle je parlais. (That’s the class I was talking about.)
Ce qui and ce que The relative pronouns ce qui and ce que are used when no antecedent noun or pronoun is present:
  • Ce quimeans “what” or “that which” and is the subject of a verb: Je me demande ce qui se passe. (I wonder what is happening.)
  • Ce que means “what” (that which) and is the object of a verb: Tu sais ce que ça veut dire. (You know what that means.)

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