Pronouns are short words that replace things or people that have previously been mentioned in the speech or text, in order to avoid repetitions.
In both French and English, personal pronouns replace people and are the subjects of the sentence (i.e. they do the action).
I / je
Je suis française – I am French
you / tu when informal
Tu es anglaise – You are English
he / il
Il est irlandais – He is Irish
she / elle
Elle est galloise – She is Welsh
you / vous when formal or plural
Vous êtes américains – You are Americans
we / nous
Nous sommes européens – We are Europeans
they / ils when masculine
‘Ils’ sont espagnols – ‘They’ are Spanish
and elles when feminine – ‘Elles’ sont italiennes – ‘They’ are Italian.
Note. 1. ‘Vous’ is used for the plural of ‘you’ as well as the formal way of addressing people, ‘tu’ being the informal form.
2.‘They’ has two translations according to the gender of whom or what we are talking about.
3. The neutral form ‘it’ does not exist in French. E.g. When replaced by a pronoun, ’la chaise’ (feminine) becomes ‘elle’ and ‘le fauteuil’ (masculine) becomes ‘il’.
Object pronouns, in both languages are complements as opposed to subjects. In English, ‘me’,’ you’,’ him’,’ her’ and ‘us’ replace people and ‘it’ and ‘them’ replace things. In French object pronouns are a little more complicated because there are 2 types of them: direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns and because gender and number affect them.
Direct object pronouns
Je t’invite chez moi – I invite you at mine
‘vous’ (formal or plural)
Je vous invite à diner – I invite you for diner
Elle m’invite au cinéma – She invites me to the cinema
Il nous sert à boire – He serves us a drink
‘les’ (plural things)
Nous les nettoyons – We clean them (shoes)
‘les’ (plural pers.)
Tu les vois chaque jour – You see them every day (your friends)
‘le’ (masc. sing. pers.)
Sophie le rejoint en ville – Sophie meets him in town (Paul)
‘la’ (fem. sing. pers.)
Sa mère la regarde jouer – Her mother watches her play
‘le’ (masc. sing. thing)
Pierre le cherche – Peter is looking for it (his mobile)
‘la’ (fem. sing. thing)
Alice la trouve sur le sofa – Alice finds it on the sofa (her key)
1. ‘me’ and ‘te’ drop their ‘e’ when the verb following them starts with a vowel.
2. ‘Le’ or ‘la’ can be ‘it’ if they replace things or ‘him’ and ‘her’ if they relate to people, they always change according to gender.
3. ‘You’ becomes ‘vous’ when formal and ‘te’ when informal.
Indirect object pronouns
Only 2 vary from the direct pronouns, ‘lui’ and ‘leur’. They are used only in relation to people and when the verb is usually followed by ‘à’ in the full sentence.
Je donne un cadeau à mon père – I give a present to my father
With using a pronoun:
Je lui donne un cadeau – I give him a present
Il parle à ses parents – He talks to his parents
With using a pronoun:
Il leur parle – He talks to them
Important Note. In French, all pronouns are placed before the verb and not after like in English.