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What are object pronouns in French?

By: Agnés Finot Thu Mar 21 2024
Pronouns, Sentence Structure

Object pronouns are words used to replace the noun in a sentence. They are particularly useful to avoid repetition, and we use them all the time! In English, they are words like “me,” “him,” or “them.” In French, we have two types of object pronouns: direct and indirect. I know what you’re thinking: what does this mean? In this post, we’ll review both the direct and indirect object pronouns in French, as well as how to use them and where to place them in the sentence. Read on and I’ll walk you through it step by step.

Table of Contents

    What are direct object pronouns and how to use them in French?

    The French direct object pronouns are me, te, le, la, nous, vous, and les, and they are used to replace the direct object in a sentence. First, let’s find out what the direct object is.

    • In simple sentences, the direct object usually goes after the verb. A direct object can be a person, an animal, a thing, or an idea.

      subjectverbdirect object

      Charlotte lit un livre.

      Charlotte reads a book.


      To be sure you have found the direct object, you can ask yourself the question, “whom?” for people or “what?” for things.

      What is Charlotte reading? → A book!

    • We use direct object pronouns to avoid repeating the noun when the repeated word would be a direct object. For instance, you could say:

      Charlotte lit un livre. Elle lit un livre tous les soirs.

      Charlotte is reading a book. She reads a book every evening.

      To avoid repeating the second livre we can use a direct object pronoun:

      Elle le lit tous les soirs.

      She reads it every evening.

      le is the direct object pronoun that replaces un livre.

    So, how do we know which pronoun to use? Let’s begin by learning the French direct object pronouns:

    Direct object pronouns

    me / m'


    te / t'

    you (informal / singular)

    le / l'

    him / it (masculine)

    la / l'

    her / it (feminine)





    you (formal / plural)


    them (masculine / feminine)


    Use m' and t' in front of the vowels a, e, i, o, u, y, and the mute h.

    Once you have identified the direct object of the sentence, you are ready to replace it with a direct object pronoun. Let’s work through this example together.

    Je veux le biscuit.(I want the cookie.)

    • Step 1: Identify the direct object of the sentence by asking “what” or “whom.”

      What do I want? → le biscuit(the cookie)

    • Step 2: Identify the gender and number of the noun: le biscuit is masculine and singular.

    • Step 3: Replace the direct object with the direct object pronoun. Le biscuit is “it” in English, so I use the pronoun le.

    • Step 4: Make a new sentence! Here, you need to make sure you always place your direct object pronoun before the verb.

      Je le veux !

      I want it!

    Now that you can recognize a direct object, recognizing an indirect object is a walk in the park!

    What are indirect object pronouns and how to use them in French?

    The French indirect object pronouns are me, te, lui, nous, vous, and leur, and they are used to replace the indirect object of the sentence. How do you recognize the indirect object?

    • Clue 1: It can only be a person or an animal.

    • Clue 2: It has the preposition à or pour in front of it.

    • Clue 3: It answers the question “to whom?” or “for whom?”


    Remember that à(to, for) also has the forms au ( à + le ) or aux ( à + les ).

    Elle écrit à sa sœur.

    She is writing to her sister.

    In the example above, I know that à sa sœur(to her sister) is the indirect object, because the preposition à precedes the noun and sa sœur is a person, so it answers the question “to whom?”

    When choosing the indirect object pronoun, ask yourself if the indirect object noun you are replacing is singular or plural. And I’ve got a scoop for you; gender doesn’t matter here!

    Indirect Pronoun

    me / m'

    to / for me

    te / t'

    to / for you (singular)


    to / for him, her, it



    to / for us


    to / for you (plural)


    to / for them


    Use m' and t' in front of the vowels a, e, i, o, u, y, and the mute h.

    Now follow the same steps as for the direct object pronouns. Let’s do an example together.

    Je prépare un gâteau d’anniversaire pour mon père. Je donnerai le gâteau à mon père demain.

    I prepare a birthday cake for my father. I will give the cake to my father tomorrow.

    • Step 1: Identify the indirect object of the sentence by asking “to whom” or “for whom?”

      To whom will I give the cake? → à mon père

    • Step 2: Identify if the noun is singular or plural: mon père is singular.

    • Step 3: Replace the indirect object with the pronoun. Mon père is “him” in English, so I use the pronoun lui.

    • Step 4: Make a new sentence! And I’m going to repeat myself… make sure you place your indirect object pronoun before the verb.

      Je lui donnerai le gâteau demain.

      I will give him his cake tomorrow.


    Many French verbs take the preposition à(to, for), and you might forget about it if these particular verbs don’t also take a preposition in English. For instance “to call someone” is téléphoner à quelqu’un you need an indirect object pronoun.

    Elle téléphone à ses parents. Elle leur téléphone.

    She calls her parents. She calls them.

    To help you, here is a list of the most common French verbs using the preposition à, which take an indirect object pronoun.


    With certain verbs followed by à, it is not possible to use an indirect pronoun to replace a person. Instead, you will use a stressed pronoun in French. Here are a couple of examples:

    penser à quelqu’un

    to think about someone

    Je pense à elle.

    I think about her.

    Je lui pense.

    s’adresser à quelqu’un

    to address someone

    Je pense à elle.

    I think about her.

    Je lui pense.

    Here is a list of 10 French verbs that take a stressed pronoun, and with which you should not use an indirect pronoun. Or you can check out this video in French for more info on the verbs + à and object pronouns.

    Where to place object pronouns in a sentence in French?

    As mentioned previously, place the object pronoun before the verb. However, there are some types of sentences where the pronoun can be a bit tricky to place. Here are the most common situations:

    Pronoun order formula

    Usual situation,
    including compound tenses like passé composé**


    object pronoun


    Je la comprends.

    I understand her.

    **Je leur ai demandé.

    I asked them.**

    Asking a question


    object pronoun



    Les-achetez vous ?

    Are you buying them?

    Est-ce que tu lui donnes ?

    Are you giving it to him?

    Negative sentence



    object pronoun



    Elle ne le veut pas.

    She doesn’t want it.

    Conjugated verb followed by an infinitive


    conjugated verb

    object pronoun

    infinitive verb

    Nous aimons les manger.

    We like to eat them.

    Imperative affirmative


    object pronoun

    Prenez-le !

    Take it!

    Sometimes, you will use a direct and an indirect object pronoun together in the same sentence, which will require you to use a specific ordering of French pronouns.

    In a nutshell

    When using French object pronouns, remember these four important steps:

    • Identify your direct or indirect object in the sentence by asking: “whom/what?” for direct objects or “to whom/for whom?” for indirect objects.

    • Identify the gender and number of the person or thing you are replacing. For indirect objects, don’t worry about the gender!

    • Choose the correct pronoun.

    • Check the position of your pronoun depending on your sentence. In most cases, it will go before the verb.

    To put your new skills to practice, check out our exercises to practice French direct and indirect object pronouns!

    Downloadable Resources

    Elevate your language-learning journey to new heights with the following downloadable resources.

    What are object pronouns in French~20 common French verbs TableWhat are object pronouns in French~Activities

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