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What is the order of object pronouns in French?

By: Agnés Finot Thu Mar 21 2024
French
Pronouns

French object pronouns almost always come in a particular order relative to each other and relative to other words in the sentence. Most importantly, when we use more than one object pronoun in a sentence, some object pronouns (such as me, te, nous, vouswill always come before others (like le, la, les).

French object pronouns are a great tool to reduce repetition because they replace the direct object or indirect object of a sentence.

But can you spot a difference between the French and the English?

Nous le regardons.

We are looking at him.

Unlike English, French object pronouns are usually placed before the verb. You’ll want to commit this structure to memory:

subject

pronoun

verb

But what happens in other kinds of sentences, like commands, or when you are using several pronouns within one sentence? Read on and find out! In this post, we’ll review how to order direct and indirect object pronouns in French, along with how to order pronouns in negative sentences and sentences with two verbs. Let’s take a look!

Table of Contents

    How to order direct and indirect object pronouns in French?

    To order French direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns, there’s a particular sequence to follow. When using pronouns, here are the two paths to take (depending on how many pronouns you are using):

    • Place the object pronoun before the verb if you are using one object pronoun only.

      Il m’aime.

      He loves me.

      Je le veux.

      I want it.

      Tu nous emmènes ?

      Are you taking us?

      Tu l'as pris en photo ?

      Did you take a picture of it?

    • If you use two different object pronouns (and usually you only use a maximum of two within a sentence), here is the order to follow:

      SUBJECT

      me
      te
      nous
      vous

      le
      las
      les

      lui
      leur

      y
      en

      VERB

    Check out this fun horsey song (aka, the finale to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”) to memorize the pronoun order!

    Tip

    Keep in mind that the object pronouns follow the same order as the object in the sentence: direct object then indirect object!

    direct objectindirect object

    La maman chante la chanson à son bébé. → La maman la lui chante.

    The mother sings the song to her baby. → She sings it to her.

    Exception!

    Look at the table below. Can you work out the exception by yourself? When should you not put the pronoun before the verb?

    Tense
    French
    English

    Present

    Je le lui donne.

    I give it to him.

    Perfect

    Je le lui ai donné.

    I gave it to him.

    Future

    Je le lui donnerai.

    I will give it to him.

    Imperative affirmative

    Donne-le-lui!

    Give it to him!

    Imperfect

    Je le lui donnais.

    I used to give it to him.

    Conditional

    Je le lui donnerais.

    I would give it to him.

    Well done! You’re a superstar! 🤩 It’s the French imperative affirmative. When you feel bossy and you want to give an order or a command, remember this sentence structure:

    Verb
    (in the imperative)

    le
    la
    les

    moi*
    toi*
    lui
    nous
    vous
    leur

    *Moi and toi are actually French stressed pronouns.

    When I remind my students about their homework assignments, I say:

    Rendez-les-moi avant vendredi !

    Hand them in to me before Friday!

    Tip
    In writing, remember to add hyphens between the verbs and the pronouns when using the imperative affirmative!
    Important

    In the perfect tense (passé composé in French), if the pronoun is in front of the auxiliary, the past participle must agree with the direct object.

    feminine plural

    J’ai pris les photos. → Je les ai prises

    I took the pictures. → I took them.

    for feminine plural agreement, add -es to the past participle.

    How to order object pronouns in negative sentences in French?

    In a French negative sentence, always place the pronoun after ne (not). C’est facile, non?(It’s easy, isn’t it?). And you're going to love this: it works in all tenses, and in the imperative!

    Tense
    French
    English

    Perfect

    Je ne le lui ai pas donné.

    I haven't given it to him.

    Past Perfect

    Je ne le lui avais pas donné.

    I hadn’t given it to him.

    Present

    Je ne le lui donne pas.

    I won’t give it to him.

    Future

    Je ne le lui donnerai pas.

    I won’t give it to him.

    Imperfect

    Je ne le lui donnais pas.

    I didn't use to give it to him.

    Conditional

    Je ne le lui donnerais pas.

    I wouldn't give it to him.

    Imperative negative

    Ne le lui donne pas!

    Don't give it to him.

    This article has some examples of negative sentences with object pronouns.

    How to order object pronouns in sentences made of two verbs in French?

    There are also rules for placing object pronouns when it comes to sentences made up of two verbs in French.

    • Certain verbs, like vouloir(to want), pouvoir(to be able to, can), or aimer(to love) are followed by a French infinitive verb. We call them semi-auxiliary verbs. In this situation, the object pronoun goes between the conjugated semi-auxiliary verb and the infinitive verb.

      • Je veux leur rendre visite à Pâques.

        I want to visit them at Easter.

        Nous pouvons les apprendre par cœur !

        We can learn them by heart!

        Il aime lui offrir des fleurs.

        He loves offering her flowers.

      It is the same when you use:

      • the near future: "I'm going to verb"
        aller(present tense) + object pronoun + infinitive

        Je vais le lui dire.

        I’m going to tell (it) to him

      • the recent past: "I've just verbed"
        venir(present tense) + de + object pronoun + infinitive

        Elle vient de vous les vendre.

        She has just sold them to you.

    Here is a list of common French semi-auxiliary verbs.

    Recap of the French object pronoun orders

    When using multiple object pronouns in French, remember the rules as they are summarized in the list below:

    • Using one pronoun:

      subject

      pronoun

      verb

    • Using double pronouns in all tenses but the imperative affirmative

      SUBJECT

      me
      te
      nous
      vous

      le
      las
      les

      lui
      leur

      VERB

    • Using the imperative affirmative

      Verb

      le
      la
      les

      moi
      toi
      nous
      vous

    • Using a negative structure:

      ne

      pronoun

      verb

      pas

    • Using semi-auxiliaries:

      subject

      semi auxiliary

      pronoun

      infinitive verb

    Are you feeling confident about using double object pronouns? Test your skills with our exercises on ordering object pronouns in French!

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