10 Basic French Pronouns You Must Learn

January 30, 2021

French pronouns are one of the most important parts of speech you need to understand in acquiring French, apart from its 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 Its 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:

  1. Je/j’ = I
  2. Tu= You
  3. Il/elle= He/She/It
  4. Nous/On= We/One
  5. Vous = You formal, you all
  6. 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 this 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



However, in French, je changes to j' when the following word begins with either a vowel, the letter H, or the French word, Y.

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 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, elderly, or stranger. Also, the French pronoun vous is used when you want to address more than one person (plural).

  FRENCH ENGLISH
INFORMAL Tu aimes le café? Do you like coffee?
FORMAL Je vous sers un café? Would you like some coffee?
PLURAL Vous comprenez, les enfants? Do you understand, children?



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 pronoun 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.


So, altogether,

  1. Vous, ils, elles all can exist in both singular and plural forms
  2. Il is used for a man as well as 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;

    1) Il est trois heures (it‘s three o’clock)
    2) Il pleut (it‘s raining)
    3) Est-ce qu’il reste des billets ? Non, ils sont tous vendus (Are there any tickets left? No, they‘re all sold)

  3. Elle is used for a woman as well as feminine singular noun or object (add +s for if its 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?



Informally, in spoken French, you replace nous with on to signify the first-person plural pronoun we.

On y va? = Shall we go?

On va sortir ce soir = We're going out tonight.



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

On dit que ce resto est mauvais = They say this restaurant is bad

On est fou ! = People are crazy!




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.

  1. Me / m' = me
  2. Te / t' = you
  3. Le / l'  = him, it
  4. La / l' = her, it
  5. Nous = us
  6. Vous = you
  7. 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.

FRENCH ENGLISH
Je le connais. I know him.
Nous la buvons. We’re drinking it.
Tu m’aimes ?  Do you love me?
Je t'aime. I love you.



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:

  1. She's giving her friend flowers.
  2. I'm buying it for my parents.


From the examples, the indirect object can be found through the question "for whom or to whom?"

  1. She's giving her friend flowers - To whom she is giving the flowers? To her friend.
  2. 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 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, 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:

  1. Dont
  2. Lequel
  3. Que
  4. Qui



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 noun 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 who while que is for the direct object.

  1. Ma soeur, qui a vingt ans, est à l'université (My sister, who's twenty, is at university).
  2. C'est l'homme que j' adore (He's the man that I love).
  3. Je me demande ce qui se passe. (I wonder what is happening)



Dont

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.

1) Les films dont tu parles (the films which you are talking about)

2) Voici le livre dont tu as parlé (here's the book that you're talking about)

3) Je connais un homme dont la femme est espionne (I know a man whose wife is a spy)

4) 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)
MASCULINE celui ceux
FEMININE celle celles




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.

FRENCH ENGLISH
Tu aimes celui-ci ? Moi je préfère celui-là ! Do you like this one? I like that one better!
Je ne sais pas si je veux ceux-ci ou ceux-là I don't know if I want these or those
Ceux qui sont polis recevront un cadeau Those who are polite will receive a gift


Learn French Today

Enjoying reading this blog? Wanting to find out more on you can include nous, vous, qui, que, and dont in your spoken French? Discover more about the French language including its words, basic phrases, pronouns, grammar, and vocabulary in Ling App. This app can definitely help you to master French and be a competent speaker as it has the most interactive features for language learning. If you to be a great example to your friends and family, seize the opportunity to be the master of all languages now and download the Ling App!

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