Copyright

Direct Object Pronouns in French

Instructor: Ada Pouplard

Ada has taught French at Tulane University and hold a master's degree in French Literature

Have you seen the Eiffel Tower? No, I have never seen it. In this dialogue, “it” is a pronoun which replaces the direct object “Eiffel Tower.” In this lesson, you will learn how to use direct object pronouns in French.

Identifying a Direct Object

Before using direct object pronouns, you have to be able to identify a direct object. So, let's start by showing you how to identify a direct object in a sentence. The simplest way to identify a direct object in a sentence is to ask the question who? (qui?) or what? (quoi?) after the verb.

Example:

Il mange des frites. He is eating fries.

Il mange quoi? He is eating what?

Answer = direct object: Des frites. Fries.

As you see, direct objects come directly after the verb and they are not preceded by prepositions. That's why they are referred to as 'direct.'

French Direct Object Pronouns

Like most pronouns, direct object pronouns replace nouns or nominal groups (group of words that acts as a noun), in order avoid repetition of the same word or same nominal group within a same sentence or a same paragraph. When using a pronoun, it should be clear from the context what or who you are referring to.

As you have probably guessed by now, direct object pronouns replace nouns and nominal groups that function as direct objects in the sentence.

Here is a table of French direct pronouns.

English Direct Object Pronoun French Direct Object Pronoun Example Translation
me me/m' Il m'aime beaucoup. He likes me very much.
you te/t' Il t'appelera demain. He will call you tomorrow.
him/it le/l' Vous l'avez fini. You finished it.
her/it la/l' Tu la vois ce soir. You are seeing her this evening.
us nous Vous nous invitez à dîner? Are you inviting us for dinner?
you (plural) vous Ils vous conduiront à la gare. They will drive you to the station.
them les Ils les a oubliés chez lui. He forgot them at home.
  • Note that me, te, nous, and vous can only refer to people. Le and la can either refer to things or people.
  • Also, me, te, la and le contract to m', t', and l' when followed by a verb starting with a vowel.

Placement of Direct Object Pronouns

As you have probably noticed in the examples from the table above, contrary to English where direct object pronouns are placed after the verb, French direct object pronouns are placed before the verb. Look at the following examples below and pay particular attention to the placement of the direct object pronoun in relation to the verb.

Examples:

1. J'aime les fleurs. Je les aime. I like flowers. I like them.

2. Il mange le gâteau. Il le mange. He is eating the cake. He is eating it.

If there are two verbs in the sentence, you have to make sure you place the direct object pronoun in front of the verb of which it is the object. Here is an example to clarify this point:

Example:

J'aime regarder l'océan. J'aime le regarder. I like to watch the ocean. I like to watch it.

As you see, in this sentence you have two verbs: aimer and regarder. So would you think l'océan is the object of aimer or regarder? Let's try to find out together: if you ask the question j'aime quoi? what will the answer be? Regarder l'océan, right? Not just l'océan. However, if you ask the question j'aime regarder quoi?, then your answer is l'océan. Therefore, l'océan is the direct object of regarder and not aimer, and the direct object pronoun should be placed in front of regarder.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support