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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What's the difference between direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns?
Aurore: And when does French use them?
Michael: At FrenchPod101.com, we hear these questions often.
In the following situation, Mathilde Martin is talking to Karen Lee about a novel she's lent to Karen's daughter. She asks,
"Does Sasha like it?"
MATHILDE MARTIN: Sasha l'aime ?
MATHILDE MARTIN: Sasha l'aime ?
KAREN LEE: Je lui demanderai.
Once more with the English translation.
MATHILDE MARTIN: Sasha l'aime ?
Michael: "Does Sasha like it?"
KAREN LEE: Je lui demanderai.
Michael: "I'll ask her."
Michael: Many learners are unsure when to use the direct object pronouns,
Aurore: le, la, les
Michael: and when to use the indirect object pronouns,
Aurore: lui, leur.
Michael: Of course, some learners may wonder why we need to use pronouns at all! In general, pronouns let us simplify, shorten, and make sentences less repetitive. They're used all the time in English — any time you say "he," "she," "it," or even "you," and "I." They stand in as placeholders for some noun or idea that has already been discussed.
French is slightly different from English in that it requires you to use different versions of the pronoun for "it" depending on the gender of the noun it's replacing. The word for "it" will also change depending on the role it plays in the sentence.
Michael: Let's take a closer look.
Do you remember how the Mathilde Martin asks,
"Does Sasha like it?"
MATHILDE MARTIN: Sasha l'aime ?
Michael: Here, she replaces the word for "novel" with a direct object pronoun, meaning "it." Unlike in English, in French, pronouns come right before a verb. The direct object pronoun here is a shortened form of the masculine singular form of "it,"
Aurore: le
Michael: And it's placed directly before the verb, meaning "likes."
Aurore: Aime.
Michael: French uses
Aurore: Le.
Michael: Because it's the direct object of "likes."
Aurore: Aime.
Michael: In other words, the word for "likes" is acting on "it" directly.
Michael: In the plural, French would use
Aurore: les.
Michael: Thus if you were talking about several novels and wanted to say "I like them," it would be,
Aurore: Je les aime.
Michael: And if you were talking about a feminine noun, like the word for "library,"
Aurore: Bibliothèque,
Michael: you'd use the feminine word for "it,"
Aurore: la.
Michael: Now let's take a look at the indirect object pronoun.
Do you remember how Karen Lee says,
"I'll ask her."
Aurore: Je lui demanderai.
Michael: Here Karen uses the indirect object pronoun,
Aurore: lui,
Michael: meaning "her" or "him." The indirect object pronoun,
Aurore: leur
Michael: Is used for plural words, and means "them" here. The indirect object pronoun is used when a verb takes an indirect object. In many cases, this will be used in constructions where the preposition "to" is used in English. For example, "I will talk to her" is
Aurore: Je lui parlerai,
Michael: And it uses the indirect object pronoun
Aurore: Lui
Michael: Without a preposition.
Michael: Now let's look at some examples. Our first example is
Aurore: Je la ferme. (enunciated).
Je la ferme.
Michael: "I'm closing it." This sentence might be a follow-up sentence, for example, "The door is open. I am closing it." This sentence uses the direct object,
Aurore: la,
Michael: because "door" is a feminine noun. The next example is
Aurore: Je ne le trouve pas. (enunciated).
Je ne le trouve pas.
Michael: "I can't find it." This sentence might be a reply to someone's saying, "The document is on the table." The noun "document" is masculine.
The next example is
Aurore: Je l'entends. (enunciated).
Je l'entends.
Michael: "I hear it" This uses the direct object "it" with the verb
Aurore: entendre,
Michael: meaning "hear." Because this verb starts with a vowel, the pronoun is shortened to the sound "l" and joined with the verb. Now let's look at some examples of indirect object pronouns.
Aurore: Je lui parle (enunciated).
Je lui parle.
Michael: "I talk to him." This uses the indirect object
Aurore: lui
Michael: to express "to him" or "to her."
The next example is
Aurore: Je leur explique. (enunciated).
Je leur explique.
Michael: "I explain to them." This uses
Aurore: leur
Michael: meaning "to them" as an indirect object of the verb
Aurore: explique.
Michael: Now let's take a look at how to use pronouns with the imperative form. In the command form, you put the pronoun after the verb with a hyphen. That applies to both forms of pronouns. For example
Aurore: Dis-leur la vérité. (enunciated).
Dis-leur la vérité.
Michael: This means "Tell the truth to them." Here, the imperative form of the verb is followed by a hyphen, which is then followed by the indirect object pronoun
Aurore: leur.
Michael: The same pattern applies when using the direct object pronoun. For example, "Close it!"
Aurore: Ferme-la!
Michael: Here too, the imperative form of the verb "close" is followed by the hyphen, which is followed by the direct object pronoun,
Aurore: la.
Michael: This pronoun shows that the object we are supposed to close is feminine, and it might be for example a door or a window. If we used the direct object pronoun
Aurore: le
Michael: The command would refer to an object that is masculine, such as "a drawer."
Aurore: Ferme-le!
Michael: Let's review. Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud. Then repeat after the French speaker, focusing on pronunciation.
Do you remember how Mathilde Martin says,
"Does Sasha like it?"
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Aurore AS MATHILDE MARTIN: Sasha l'aime ?
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Aurore AS MATHILDE MARTIN: Sasha l'aime ?
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Sasha l'aime?
Michael: And how KAREN LEE says,
"I'll ask her."
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Aurore AS KAREN LEE: Je lui demanderai.
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Aurore AS KAREN LEE: Je lui demanderai.
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Je lui demanderai.
Michael: Great job! Now you know the difference between direct object and indirect object pronouns and how to use them. That's all there is to it!
Be sure to download the lesson notes for this lesson at FrenchPod101.com — and move onto the next lesson!

4 Comments

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FrenchPod101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
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What questions do you have about learning French?

FrenchPod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 06:44 PM
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Bonjour Janelle,

We have a complete pathway on sentence structures if you're interested: https://www.frenchpod101.com/lesson-library/must-know-french-sentence-structures/

For more detailed questions, like where to place adverbs or adjectives, you can look at specific lessons on these subjects by just typing in a keyword in the search bar you'll find on top of the page. For example, here's one on adjectives: https://www.frenchpod101.com/lesson/learn-french-in-three-minutes-16-french-adjectives/


Lastly, I'm not sure I understand what you're referring to when you say "helping words". The examples you give are just variations of the verb "to be". Can you be more specific please? 😄


Bonne journée,

Marion

Team FrenchPod101

Janelle
Monday at 12:23 AM
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Hi, Is there any rules about French sentence order? Example: When to put the adjective/ adverb before the noun etc ?

Also, do you have a rule about helping words and where to place them in a sentence? Example: a , etait, est, sont etc. Thank You!

Janelle
Monday at 12:19 AM
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Hi, Is there any rules about French sentence order? Example: When to put the adjective/ adverb before the noun etc, or do you happen to have a lesson about it?

Also, do you have a lesson on french helping words and where to place them in a sentence? Example: a , etait, est, sont etc. Thank You!