Indirect object pronouns in French

On the previous pages, we looked at how to say him, her, it and them in French. We used what are sometimes called direct object pronouns: le, la and les.

The pronouns le, la and les represent the object of the verb: in very simple terms, that means the "thing/person that has something done to them" (i.e. the thing or person that "undergoes the action represted by the verb"). For example, in I see him, the word him represents the person who is seen; in they know her, the word her represents the person is known, etc. (That's not a perfect definition of direct object, but it'll do us for now.)

On the other hand, consider sentences such as the following:

In this case, the actual object being given is the book; him represents what is often called an indirect object: an additional recipient or participant in the action. We could also re-phrase the sentence (although with a slightly different emphasis) as follows:

In cases such as this:

French uses:
  • lui to mean (to) him/her/it;
  • leur to mean (to) them.

For example:

Je lui ai donné un livre
I gave him/her a book.
Il leur a payé un café
He bought them a coffee
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Notice how in this case, the choice depends solely on singular vs plural; the choice does not depend on either gender (masculine or feminine) or animacy (i.e. whether the indirect object is a human or not).

Saying me and you

On the next page, we look at what is actually a simpler case: saying me and you in French using the pronouns me and te.

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.