French pronouns are one of the most important parts of speech you need to understand in acquiring French, apart from their basic greetings, question words, and common phrases. Knowing some of the basic phrases and expressions are great in learning French, but not good enough. You need to know French pronouns so you can talk French comfortably with its native speakers.
Just so you know, French pronouns work essentially the same as English pronouns; words that are used to refer to people, places, objects, and phrases.
Basic French Pronouns And Their Examples
Like English or Malay pronouns, French pronouns (les pronoms) have several different categories, such as personal pronouns, relative pronouns, object pronouns, and demonstrative pronouns. In today’s blog, we’ll look at some of these pronouns along with their examples and ways of using them in daily speech.
1) Personal Pronouns
In French, personal pronouns often refer to ‘Subject Pronouns’ (Pronoms Sujets), or in this case, ‘Personal Subject Pronouns.’
Subject pronouns refer to the person or entity performing the action (verb) in a sentence. The subject pronoun used in French is as the following:
- Je/j’ = I
- Tu= You
- Il/elle= He/She/It
- Nous/On= We/One
- Vous = You formal, you all
- Ils/elles = They
Subject Pronoun – I
As you can see, the subject pronoun for I has two versions, je, and j’. You can normally use the first-person pronoun je to refer to yourself.
- Je ne sais pas = I don’t know
- Je parle de mon voyage = I‘m talking about my trip
- J’aime les fraises = I like strawberries
- J’ai perdu mon sac = I lost my bag
- Bon, j’y vais = Right, I‘m off
Subject Pronoun – You
Tu and vous both mean the second-person pronoun you, but they differ in terms of formality and the number of interlocutors. Tu is used with the person you are close to and comfortable with, such as your friends, colleagues, and family. But then, like nous, vous, is used in a rather formal setting. It’s often used to refer to one’s superior, any authority, the elderly, or a stranger. Also, the French pronoun vous is used when you want to address more than one person (plural).
|INFORMAL||Do you like coffee?||Tu aimes le café?|
|FORMAL||Would you like some coffee?||Je vous sers un café?|
|PLURAL||Do you understand, children?||Vous comprenez, les enfants?|
Subject Pronoun – He/She/It/They
In French, you use elle and il to represent the third-person pronouns she and he.
- Elle n’a pas de soeur = She doesn’t have a sister
- Il était en retard = He was late
The pronoun ‘it’ in English is special and specific, but that is not the case in French. As French is a gendered language, every object, item, or animal is referred to using the pronouns elle and il as well, depending on its gender. So the pronoun for the book (le livre) becomes il, and the apple (la pomme) becomes elle.
- Vous, ils, elles all can exist in both singular and plural forms
- Il is used for a man as well as a masculine singular noun or object (if the object is in plural form, add +s at the back; ils). You can also use it to talk about the time or weather:
Il est trois heures (it‘s three o’clock)
Il pleut (it‘s raining)
Est-ce qu’il reste des billets ? Non, ils sont tous vendus (Are there any tickets left? No, they‘re all sold)
- Elle is used for a woman as well as a feminine singular noun or object (add +s for if it’s feminine plural; elles).
Tu aimes ces chaussures ? Non, elles sont affreuses (Do you like those shoes? No, they‘re horrible)
Subject Pronoun – We
In French, the first-person plural pronoun we are known as nous, and you can use it exactly like how you use the pronoun ‘we’. In general, the French people use this pronoun formally, in a professional, standard-setting.
Nous habitons à Paris = We live in Paris
Quand pouvons-nous commencer?= When can we begin?
However, the pronoun on is quite special in French – it’s also used in reference to someone, they, or people in general.
On m’a volé mon porte-monnaie = Someone has stolen my purse
2) Object Pronouns
Object pronouns are the pronouns you use to refer to an object. In French, there are two types of this category; direct and indirect.
Direct Object Pronouns
This type of pronoun is called Compléments D’objet Direct (COD) in French. You use it to replace the person, animal, or object that receives the action (verb) performed in a sentence. So, instead of repeating someone’s name, such as “Alice is at the shop, I see Alice,” one can use an object pronoun.
- Me / m’ = me
- Te / t’ = you
- Le / l’ = him, it
- La / l’ = her, it
- Nous = us
- Vous = you
- Les = them
So, you can use the object pronoun la to refer to Alice.
- Je la vois = I see her
Also, in French, the object pronoun is placed before the verb.
|I know him.||Je le connais.|
|We’re drinking it.||Nous la buvons.|
|Do you love me?||Tu m’aimes ?|
|I love you.||Je t‘aime.|
Indirect Object Pronouns
In French, the indirect category is known as Compléments D’objet Indirect (COI). An indirect object is a person or animate noun that receives the action performed by the subject indirectly. Let’s look at the indirect objects of these sentences:
- She’s giving her friend flowers.
- I’m buying it for my parents.
From the examples, the indirect object can be found through the question “for whom or to whom?”
- She’s giving her friend flowers – To whom is she giving the flowers? To her friend.
- I’m buying it for my parents – For whom am I buying it? For my parents.
Important tip! Make sure you don’t get confused between direct and indirect objects! The direct object in the above examples are flowers and it; it’s the objects associated with the verb or action performed by the doer or subject. Remember, as previously mentioned, that the indirect object is the person receiving the act performed by the doer.
3) Relative Pronouns
In the French language, relative pronouns are called les pronoms relatifs. The function of relative pronouns is to replace nouns or pronouns so that you don’t have to repetitively state the subjects and objects in your speech. You may have well understood the English relative pronouns, which are who, which, that, whom, and where. Yup, we often use these pronouns in our sentences. Well, French relative pronouns work more or less the same. The French relative pronouns are:
Qui and Que
Each of these pronouns can indicate a person, thing, animal, or concept. These two pronouns are invariable; the gender and number of the nouns que and qui intend to replace won’t matter in this case. So, what’s the difference between the two? Qui is used to replace the subject and corresponds to the English, while que is for the direct object.
- Ma soeur, qui a vingt ans, est à l’université (My sister, who‘s twenty, is at university).
- C’est l’homme que j’ adore (He’s the man that I love).
- Je me demande ce qui se passe. (I wonder what is happening).
Dont in French is the equivalent of whose, whom, of which, and that (which we usually drop or omit in English). If you want to refer to someone’s belongings or possessions, use the relative pronoun dont. Also, in French, one more function of dont you need to know is that this relative pronoun replaces the French preposition de + person/thing.
- Les films dont tu parles (the films which you are talking about).
- Voici le livre dont tu as parlé (here’s the book that you’re talking about).
- Je connais un homme dont la femme est espionne (I know a man whose wife is a spy).
- La femme dont la voiture est en panne (the woman whose car has broken down).
4) Demonstrative Pronouns
The demonstrative nouns in French called Pronoms Démonstratifs are used to point or refer to specific objects. The demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these, and those.
|SINGULAR (THIS/THAT)||PLURAL (THESE/THOSE)|
The singular demonstrative pronouns celui and celle both carry the meaning of this and that. The same goes for its plural form – the plural demonstrative pronouns ceux and celles both signify these and those.
|Do you like this one? I like that one better!||Tu aimes celui-ci ? Moi je préfère celui-là !|
|I don’t know if I want these or those||Je ne sais pas si je veux ceux-ci ou ceux-là|
|Those who are polite will receive a gift||Ceux qui sont polis recevront un cadeau|
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