French Subject Pronouns

Overview

Personal pronouns have different forms to match the different grammatical persons they replace. There are five different kinds of French personal pronouns, in this module we will focus on Subject pronouns.

Subject Pronouns

  • Serve as the subject of verbs.
  • May be singular or plural, masculine or feminine to agree with the noun (subject) they replace.
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A pronoun takes the place of and functions as a noun. This means that a pronoun replaces who or what is being talked about in a sentence. A personal subject pronoun specifically replaces the subject of the sentence. The pronoun will agree in gender and number with the person or the group of people that it replaces.

Alexa plays the violin.

She plays the violin.

Eddie and Blake go for a walk.

They go for a walk.

She and They are the two subject pronouns. Alexa is replaced with “she” because the sentence is referring to one singular female. Eddie and Blake are replaced with “they” because the sentence is referring to more than one person.

In French, there are nine different personal subject pronouns.

 Le pronom sujet The Subject Pronoun Label
 Je I first person singular
 Tu You second person singular  (informal)
 Il He, It third person singular  (masculine)
 Elle She, It third person singular  (feminine)
 On One third person singular   (neutral)
 Nous We first person plural
 Vous You second person plural (or formal singular)
 Ils They third person plural
(masculine)
 Elles They third person plural (feminine)

Tu vs. Vous

Both of these subject pronouns mean “You.” Vous is most commonly used because it is what one uses to be polite. This would include talking to a stranger or a superior (i.e. a person of higher status or older age). You use Tu when you are talking to a close friend or someone in your family.

On

The personal subject pronoun On has several different meanings . On can translate to the singular and gender neutral pronoun “One” or can mean “We” and refer to a group of people (but still being classified as a singular pronoun).

On aime la plage en ete.

One likes the beach in the summer.

On aime la plage en ete.

We like the beach in the summer.

Ils/Elles

Just like the singular versions (Il/Elle) Ils and Elles correspond in gender and number with who or what they’re referring to. Ils can refer to a group of all males or a mix between males and females as well as a group of masculine/gender mix of nouns. Elles can only refer to a group of females or a group of female nouns.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.