Easy Learning French

Personal pronouns: indirect object - Easy Learning Grammar French

What is an indirect object pronoun?
When a verb has two objects (a direct one and an indirect one), the indirect object pronoun is used instead of a noun to show the person or thing the action is intended to benefit or harm, for example, me in He gave me a book; Can you get me a towel?

1 Using indirect object pronouns

  • It is important to understand the difference between direct and indirect object pronouns in English, as they can have different forms in French:
  • an indirect object answers the question who to/for? or to/for what?
  • He gave me a book. → Who did he give the book to? → me (=indirect object pronoun)
  • Can you get me a towel? → Who can you get a towel for? → me (=indirect object pronoun)
  • if something answers the question what or who, then it is the direct object and NOT the indirect object
  • He gave me a book. → What did he give me? → a book (=direct object)
  • Can you get me a towel? → What can you get me? → a towel (=direct object)
  • Here are the French indirect object pronouns:
me (m’)me, to me, for menousus, to us, for us
te (t’)you, to you, for youvousyou, to you, for you
luihim, to him, for him
her, to her, for her
it, to it, for it
leurthem, to them, for them (masculine and feminine)
Il nous écrit tous les jours.He writes to us every day.
Ils te cachent quelque chose.They’re hiding something from you.
Tipme changes to m’ and te to t’ in front of words beginning with a vowel, most words beginning with h, and the French word y.
Il m’a donné un livre.He gave me a book.
Tu m’apportes une serviette?Can you get me a towel?
  • The pronouns shown in the table are used instead of the preposition à with a noun.
  • J’écris à Suzanne. I’m writing to Suzanne. → Je lui écris. I’m writing to her.
  • Donne du lait au chat. Give the cat some milk. → Donne-lui du lait. Give it some milk.
  • Some French verbs like demander à (meaning to ask) and téléphoner à (meaning to phone) take an indirect object even though English uses a direct object.
Il leur téléphone tous les soirs.He phones them every evening.
  • On the other hand, some French verbs like attendre (meaning to wait for), chercher (meaning to look for) and regarder (meaning to look at) take a direct object even though English uses an indirect object.
Je les attends devant la gare.I’ll wait for them outside the station.

2 Word order with indirect object pronouns

  • The indirect object pronoun usually comes BEFORE the verb.
Dominique vous écrit une lettre.Dominique’s writing you a letter.
Il ne nous parle pas.He doesn’t speak to us.
Il ne veut pas me répondre.He won’t answer me.
  • Note that in orders and instructions telling someone to do something, the indirect object pronoun comes AFTER the verb.
Donne-moi ça!Give me that!
Key points
  • The French indirect object pronouns are: me (m’), te (t’), lui in the singular, and nous, vous, leur in the plural.
  • Except in orders and instructions telling someone to do something, the direct object pronoun comes before the verb.

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