I have very little memories of time spent in French classes as a student for my own Junior Cert- but I can remember being taught pronouns. Despite my teacher’s best efforts, I simply could not grasp the concept of a direct or indirect object. With a Junior Certificate French exam looming, I did what any desperate fourteen year old student would do- begged my mother for help. My long suffering mother who had never actually studied French herself understandably failed to come up trumps. However, nine years and a French degree later I’ve managed to master them- and so can you! Tip: it wasn’t worth my bald patches acquired in the back of a third year French class.
Firstly, it’s worth knowing that pronouns are really important for Leaving Certificate French. They make an impressive addition to written pieces (and will likely increase your language marks) but they also appear on the comprehension section where you have to change the answer around and are often forced to use pronouns.
Don’t worry- c’est du gâteau ! It’s a piece of cake!
Firstly, pronouns shorten sentences and communicate the idea of “it.” Instead of saying we are watching television, we can simply say we’re watching it. We can also use pronouns to describe things that the verb is doing: My mother is watching us (“us” is the pronoun here).
To create these sentences, we must learn off the list below. Each pronoun corresponds to a person or thing (hence the idea of “it” or “them”).
Me / m’ :Me (we use “m'” if it appears before words beginning with a vowel)
Te / t’ : You
Le / l’ : Him, it (for masculine words)
La / l’ : her, it (for feminine words)
Nous : Us
Vous : Ye
Les : Them
It is really easy to use these- simply place them between the subject (the person/thing doing the action: for example “je” or “ils”) and the verb (the action word).
Did you know that you’ve already studied a pronoun? Je m’appelle, meaning “my name is”, literally means “I call myself.”
Look at the position of the “me” pronoun- it is between the subject (the “je”) and the verb (the action word- “appeler”).
Je vois les enfants —–> Je les vois: I see the children —–> I see them (I have placed the pronoun for “them” from the list above between the “je” and the “vois”- the subject and verb).
Ils aiment la télévision —-> Ils l’aiment: They like television —-> They like it (I have placed the pronoun for “it” from the list above between the “je” and the “aiment”- the subject and the verb. We are using “l'” instead of “la” as “aiment” begins with a vowel).
When we use these with past tense, we still place the pronoun between the subject and the first verb. However, the object (the thing we are using the pronoun for- for example “la télévision”) must use agreement.
This is straightforward- we must identify if the “object” is masculine, feminine or plural and add the agreement on the verb.
If the object is feminine, we add an “e.” If it is masculine plural, we add an “s.” If the object is feminine plural, we add an “es.”
Remember: we know if an object is masculine when it has “un” or “le” before it. Feminine objects have “une” or “la” before them.
When placing sentences with object pronouns in the negative, we place the “ne “before the pronoun and the “pas” after the first verb.
Mon frère a aimé les bonbons—-> Il les a aimés
My brother liked the sweets—–> He liked them.
Note that we added an “s” to “aimés” for agreement- “les bonbons” is masculine plural.
Elle a fini ses devoirs——> Elle les a finis.
She finished her homework ——> She finished it
Note that we added an “s” to “fini” as “les devoirs” is masculine plural.
J’enverrai mes lettres——> Je les enverrai
I will sell my letters—-> I will sell them.
Note that we don’t add an “s” to “enverrai” here as we only add agreement in past tense- this sentence is future tense.
Indirect Object Pronouns
When we are doing something “to” or “for” someone some of the pronouns change.
For example, if we are responding to someone, we cannot use the pronouns “le, la or les.”
These pronouns change before verbs that do something “to” or “for” someone or something- the changes are in the box. Luckily, the rest of the verbs from the above list stay the same!
Instances where we do something “to” or “for” someone or something are called indirect objects.
|DIRECT OBJECT PRONOUN||INDIRECT OBJECT PRONOUN|
|“Le” and “La”||These change to “Lui”|
|“Les”||This changes to “Leur”|
This rule is particularly important as some verbs in French literally say “to” where we do not in English. It is constantly tested in Leaving Certificate comprehension questions!
These verbs are listed below. These are followed with an “à” in written work (meaning “to”).
Remember: we use these in the same way in future and past tense- placing the pronoun between the subject and verb.
Learn the below verbs off and you will be more than able to handle this rule.
Téléphoner (à): To phone
Ecrire (à): To write to
Envoyer (à): To send
Demander (à): To ask (somebody something)
Répondre (à): To reply
Dire (à): To tell (literally to “say” to somebody)
Parler (à): To speak (to)
Promettre (à): To promise/ to allow someone (to someone)
Donner (à): To give (something to someone)
Obéir (à): To obey
Il donne des devoirs à l’étudiant: Il lui donne des devoirs (He is giving homework to the student: He gives him homework)
As he is giving the homework “to” the student, “le” has changed to “lui.”
J’ai donné le livre à ma fille: Je lui ai donné le livre (I gave the book to my daughter: I gave her the book)
As I am giving it “to” my daughter, “le” (from the original direct pronoun list)mhas changed to “lui.”
Il demande à ses parents pourquoi il doit aller: Il leur demande pourquoi (He is asking his parent why he has to go… He is asking them why he has to go)
As the verb “demander” is followed by “à” (he is literally asking “to” them) the “les” from our original pronoun list has changed to “leur.”
Il écrit à nous: Il nous écrit (He is writing to us)
As this verb is followed by “à” (it is on our list above- we write “to” somebody) this is an indirect object. However, “nous” stays the same in the pronouns, despite the fact that this is an indirect pronoun. Remember- only “le”, “la” and “les” change in cases of indirect objects (the verbs in the lists above).
Therefore, the key is to be able to recognise which verbs are “for” or “to” somebody and know to use indirect object pronouns with these. Learn off the above verb list to prepare for this!
If we are using two pronouns in a sentence (referring to a thing and a person) we place the pronoun for the thing first.
Je donne le livre à mon ami: I am giving the book to my friend. Je le lui donne: I am giving him it (We are placing the pronoun for the “thing”- the book (le)- first before the pronoun for the person- “lui.”).
J’ai envoyé une lettre à ma cousine: I sent a letter to my cousin Je la lui ai envoyé: I sent it to her. (We are placing the pronoun for the “thing”- the letter (la)- before the pronoun for the person- “lui.”)
Et voila! Test yourself here. I hope you found this helpful.