Wow, that title sounds really scary, doesn’t it? It’s really not that bad though – the only difficulty comes from the fact that in French, direct and indirect object pronouns don’t go the same place in the sentence that they do in English.
Knowing Which Is Direct and Which Is Indirect
In this sentence, “the keys” is the direct object, because that’s directly what the verb “bring” is referring to. Cassie isn’t bringing her mother anywhere, she’s bringing the keys.
The indirect object is what clarifies what’s happening to the direct object, and usually answers the question, “Where is the direct object going?” If you can put the word “to” in front of the word and it makes sense, it’s probably the indirect object. In this sentence, “the keys” are going TO “her mother”.
Also, you can’t have an indirect object without also having a direct object in the sentence. So if you only see one object, it’s got to be a direct object.
For example, say you’ve got the sentence:
“Cassie brings her mother the keys.”
In French, this would be literally translated, word for word, in the same order:
Cassie apporte sa mère les clés.
Okay so far?
The difference between the order in English and in French comes when you use a pronoun instead of a noun, such as “her” instead of “mother” or “them” instead of “keys”.
In English, we would keep the same order:
“Cassie brings her them.”
But not so in French. If the indirect and/or direct object is a pronoun, it goes in front of the verb, not behind it.
Cassie les lui apporte.
So in English, this would literally read:
“Cassie them her brings.”
Which, yes, might seem pretty weird right now, but you’ll get used to it pretty quickly.
French Indirect and Direct Object Pronouns
So now you’re wondering where these pronouns are coming from. Here are the two sets of object pronouns you’ll need to know.
|Direct Object Pronouns|
|Indirect Object Pronouns|
Notice that vous and nous are the same from their subject pronoun forms, no different from the words you’ve already learned. Also, it’s me and te for both direct and indirect object pronouns, so you don’t have to stop and think about those, either, when you’re forming a sentence with object pronouns.
So the only pronouns that you really need to know and study is that it’s le/la/les if it’s a direct object, lui/leur for indirect objects.
The Order of Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns
Last thing: the pronouns go in a specific order in the sentence, just like they would in English. For example, you would say:
“Bring me it.”
“Bring it me”
Below is a chart that shows you the order of pronouns:
This might look frightening, but it really isn’t. Just remember that y and en are the last two (in that order), the ones referring to “me” or “you”, both plural and singular, go first, and after that, direct third-person (le/la/les) goes before indirect third person (lui/leur), which kind of makes sense.
Memorize the order for now, but know that as you progress in your French and start listening and reading the language, you’ll get used to the order pretty quickly, and it will sound wrong to you if the pronouns are out of order.