French Direct Object Pronouns
Direct objects are the people or things in a sentence that receive the action of the verb. To find the direct object in a sentence, ask the question "Who?" or "What?" Like most pronouns, direct object pronouns replace nouns or nominal groups (group of words that acts as a noun), in order avoid repetition of the same word or same nominal group within a same sentence or a same paragraph. When using a pronoun, it should be clear from the context what or who you are referring to.
The concept of direct object pronouns in French is the same as it is in English. A direct object pronoun replaces the direct object in a sentence. It directly receives the action of the verb. Read the following two example sentences:
I am buying the TV. → I am buying it.
Thomas sees Ashley across the street. → Thomas sees her across the street.
In the first example, the direct object pronoun “it” replaces the direct object “the TV.” In the second example, the direct object pronoun “her” replaces the direct object “Ashley.”
A direct object is usually identified by asking the questions “What?” or “Who” in regards to the verb found in the sentence. For the first sentence example, the question you could ask is, “I am buying what?” and the response (or the direct object) would be “the TV.” For the second example sentence, the question you could ask is, “Thomas sees who?” and the response (or the direct object) would be “Ashely.”
In French, direct object pronouns function the same. The major difference is where they’re placed in the sentence. Direct object pronouns are placed before the conjugated verb in a sentence. Also, the direct object pronoun that is used depends on the gender and number of the direct object it’s replacing.
|First||me / m’||me|
|Second||te / t’||you|
|Third, masculine||le / l’||him / it|
|Third, feminine||la / l’||her / it|
Steps to Using a Direct Object Pronoun:
- Identify the direct object in the original sentence by asking “What?” or “Who” in relation to the verb.
- Identify whether that direct object is masucline or feminine, and plural or singular.
- Choose the appropriate direct object pronoun from the chart above.
- Rewrite the French sentence placing the direct object pronoun before the conjugated verb unless there are two verbs in the sentence (like le futur proche). In that case, put the direct object pronoun between the two verbs.
Béatrice voit la fleur dans le jardin.
- Direct object: la fleur (Béatrice sees what? A flower…)
- la fleur = feminine, singular
- Direct object pronoun: la
- Béatrice la voit dans le jardin.
*Don’t forget to take out the direct object from the sentence when you replace it with a pronoun!
If you wanted to make this sentence negative, you would place the “ne” and the “pas” around both the direct object pronoun and the verb: Béatrice ne la voit pas dans le jardin.
Tu n’attends pas le bus. → Tu ne l’attends pas.
Allez-vous regarder les films ce soir? → Nous allons les regarder ce soir.
Élise prend le biscuit du panier. → Élise le prend du panier.
Le prof enseigne sa classe à 11h50 du matin. → Le prof l’enseigne à 11h50.
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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
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