What is an indirect object pronoun?
Personal pronouns: indirect object - Easy Learning Grammar French
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 me||nous||us, to us, for us|
|te (t’)||you, to you, for you||vous||you, to you, for you|
|lui||him, to him, for him|
her, to her, for her
it, to it, for it
|leur||them, 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!|
- 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.