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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Candice here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common French questions.
The question for this lesson is: When do you use the direct object pronouns (le, la, and les) versus the indirect object pronouns (lui and leur)?
Sometimes, you'll want to shorten a sentence with a pronoun rather than use the same noun again. This is similar to how we use “it” in English in place of nouns we have already said, such as, “Did you see that movie yesterday?” -“Yes, I saw it.” In French, pronouns come right before a verb to simplify a sentence.
For example, if your friend asks you, Tu aimes ce roman? "Do you like this novel?" Instead of, Oui, j'aime ce roman, "Yes, I like this novel," you might say, Oui, je l'aime, "Yes, I like it."
In this case, you put the pronoun after the subject, je, and before the verb, aimer. But how do you know which pronoun to use?
Le, la, and les are used with nouns that are directly attached to the verb. That means you don't need the preposition à. For example, Aimer, meaning “to like,” is one of those verbs.
For aimer, we use the l-apostrophe in the singular, because aimer begins with a vowel. In this case, Je l'aime. In the plural, we would use les. So if you were referring to several novels, you'd say, Je les aime.
Here's another example:
La porte est ouverte. Je la ferme. "The door is open. I'm closing it." La here refers to la porte, "the door," which is feminine.
Here's one in the masculine:
Someone says, Le document est sur la table. "The document is on the table." You respond, Je ne le trouve pas. "I can't find it." or “I don’t find it.” Le, before trouve, refers to le document.
Lui and leur, on the other hand, are usually only for people, not things. Verbs that use lui and leur use the preposition à.
The most common example is probably parler. For example, Je parle souvent à ma soeur, "I speak often with my sister," becomes Je lui parle souvent. Here lui, which would be similar to the English “with her,” refers to ma soeur, which would be “my sister.”
If you're talking about more than one person, you would use leur. "I am talking to my brothers" would be Je parle à mes frères. With the pronoun, it would become Je leur parle, meaning, “I am talking to them.”
In the command form, you put the pronoun after the verb with a hyphen. That applies to both forms of pronouns.
So "Tell them the truth" would be, Dis-leur la vérité.
Another example in the command form is "The door is open. Close it!" which looks like, La porte est ouverte. Ferme-la!
Got it? Not so bad, right?
Stay tuned for more answers to your frequently asked questions!
A bientôt, see you soon!