Indirect Object Pronouns in French

Instructor: Marcy Farrell
We can use pronouns to avoid unnecessary repetition. In this lesson, you will learn what indirect object pronouns are and how to use them in French. You will also learn some key verbs that are often used with indirect object pronouns.

What is an Indirect Object Pronoun?

Indirect pronouns are pronouns that are used in place of indirect objects. An indirect object is the part of the sentence that tells you whom or what the action in the sentence is being done to. In English, these are words like 'her,' 'them,' and 'us.' In French, the indirect object pronouns are:

Pronoun Pronunciation Translation
me (pronounced: muh) me
te (pronounced: tuh) you (singular, informal)
lui (pronounced: lwee) him, her
nous (pronounced: nooh) us
vous (pronounced: vooh) you (plural, formal)
leur (pronounced: luhr) them

Identifying Indirect Objects

Imagine that Christophe has a book that his friend Sylvie want to borrow. Christophe asks his sister, Emilie, if she's going to see Sylvie that day. Emilie says yes, so Christophe says 'Will you give her the book?' In that sentence, the word 'her' is a pronoun. It refers to Sylvie. Christophe uses 'her' instead of repeating 'Sylvie.'

Emilie gives the book to Sylvie. The word 'to' helps us see that, in this sentence, Sylvie is an indirect object. In French, the word à means 'to.' Christophe can say, Tu donnes le livre à Sylvie (pronounced: tooh duhn luh lee-vruh ah Seel-vee), meaning, 'You give the book to Sylvie.' Emilie responds, Ok je lui donne le livre (pronounced: oh-kay, zhuh lwee duhn luh livre), meaning, 'OK, I'll give her the book.'

Examples

At school, Emilie's friends rely on her to give them books, paper, pens, and other supplies. For example, Alice needs some paper, du papier (pronounuced: dooh pah-pee-ay). She asks Emilie, 'Tu me donnes du papier, s'il te plaît?' (pronounced: tooh muh duhn dooh pah-pee-ay, see tuh play), meaning, 'Give me some paper please.' In that sentence, me is an indirect object pronoun. Emilie responds, 'OK, je te donne du papier.' In Emilie's sentence, the word te is an indirect object pronoun.

Notice that the indirect object pronoun goes in between the subject (je) and the verb (donne). Read the following examples in which other friends ask Emilie for paper as well as: un stylo (pronounced: uhn stee-loh), a pen; un crayon (pronounced: uhn kray-on), a pencil; and la réponse (pronounced: lah ray-ponse), the answer.

Me ('Me') and Te ('You,' Singular)

  • Alexandre: Emilie, tu me donnes un stylo, s'il te plaît?
  • Emilie: OK, je te donne un stylo.

Nous ('Us') and Vous ('You,' Plural)

Next, Zoé and Claire ask Emilie for some paper.

  • Zoé & Claire: Emilie, tu nous donnes du papier, s'il te plaît? ('Give us some paper please.')
  • Emilie: OK, je vous donne du papier. ('OK, I'll give you some paper.')
  • Zoé & Claire: Emilie, tu nous donnes la réponse, s'il te plaît? ('Give us the answer please.')
  • Emilie: OK, je vous donne la réponse. ('OK, I'll give you the answer.')

Leur ('Them')

Alexandre notices that Emilie gives Zoé and Claire the answer.

  • Alexandre: Emilie! Tu leur donnes la réponse? ('You're giving them the answer?')
  • Emilie: Oui, je leur donne la réponse. ('Yes, I'm giving them the answer.')

Lui ('Him' and 'Her')

The teacher notices that Emilie is helping other students. She wants to know if Emilie is giving answers to her friends.

  • Teacher: Tu donnes la réponse à Claire? ('Are you giving Claire the answer?')
  • Emilie: Oui, je lui donne la réponse. ('Yes, I'm giving her the answer.')
  • Teacher: Tu donnes la réponse à Alexandre? ('Are you giving Alexandre the answer?')
  • Emilie: Oui, je lui donne la réponse. ('Yes, I'm giving him the answer'.)

Notice that lui is used for both 'him' and 'her.'

Common Verbs With Indirect Objects

Remember that we do something to an indirect object. We talk to someone, we write to someone. There are several verbs in French that are followed by à, meaning 'to.'

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