Pronouns replace nouns in sentences, which makes it easier than saying the same noun repeatedly.
Many of them refer to “I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, “it”, “we”, and “them”, but they come in different forms depending on their place in the sentence and the exact meaning of the sentence (just like “he” has “him” as another form).
Note that mixed gender groups, whether of people or objects, always take the masculine plural form unless you know they only consist of females.
Below is an overview of the various types of pronouns used in French, with links to their full grammar lessons on this site, if applicable.
Subject pronouns replace the subject of the sentence and drive the action of what’s occurring in the sentence.
Ils conduisent ma nouvelle voiture. (“They are driving my new car.”)
|je (“I”)||nous (“we”)|
|tu (“you” familiar)||vous (“you” formal or plural)|
|il/elle (“he/she”)||ils/elles (“they”)|
Read our full lesson on subject pronouns here →
Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns
Object pronouns are located before the verb in sentences, unlike in English. They explain what the subject and verb are doing to a pronoun.
Elle ferme la porte. (“She closes the door.”)
La porte is the direct object noun; transforming it into its direct object pronoun form would make it la, and it would precede the verb.)
Elle la ferme.
|Direct Object Pronouns|
Some sentences can have indirect objects as well as direct objects.
Je leur ai écrit une lettre. (“I wrote them a letter.”)
|Indirect Object Pronouns|
Read our full lesson on direct and indirect object pronouns here →
These pronouns mean, generally, “which” or “which one”. They have four distinct forms for each combination of noun gender and plurality, and their specific form depends on which noun they are replacing.
J’ai deux pommes. Laquelle préfères-tu? (Une pomme (“apple”) is feminine, so the feminine singular form is used.)
There are also special forms to indicate “at which” or “to which” or any other translation that à + [noun] would refer to in French.
Tu as acheté beaucoup de jeux auxquels je veux jouer. (Les jeux (“games”) are masculine plural.)
|Relative Pronouns with À|
Finally, there are four forms that represent “from which” or “of which”, or any other translation that takes the de + [noun] structure in French.
J’organise un atelier pour les artistes au cours duquel je donne le conseil. (Un atelier, (“workshop”) is masculine singular.)
|Relative Pronouns with De|
Reflexive pronouns come before certain verbs to show that the subject is doing the action to itself. For example:
Ils se couchent. (“They are going to bed.”)
Read our full lesson on reflexive pronouns here →
Demonstrative pronouns mean “this one”, “that one”, and “those”. They are commonly used for making a distinction between two different objects in a sentence, such as:
Celle-ci est plus jolie que celle-là. (“This one (dress) is prettier than that one.”)
The pronoun with the –ci suffix means “this one” and the –là suffix means “that one”.
|Masculine||celui-ci, celui-là||ceux-ci, ceux-là|
|Feminine||celle-ci, celle-là||celles-ci, celles-là|
The adverbial pronouns y and en replace a quantity, a place, or an object of the preposition, making them adverbs as well as pronouns.
Generally speaking, y refers to a place, en refers to a quantity or other de + object of the preposition phrase, and y and en are both used to replace objects of the preposition when French verb structures are followed by an à (replaced with y) or de (replaced with en).
Read our full lesson on adverbial pronouns here →
Pronoun order in sentences
You may occasionally encounter or need to use two pronouns as direct and indirect objects in a single sentence. French has a logical order for this construction; please see the chart below.