What are determiners and pronouns?
Pronouns (les pronoms) replace a noun. There are different types of pronouns: personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, reflexive pronouns, relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns (question words), demonstrative pronouns, indefinite pronouns and adverbial pronouns. Determiners (les déterminants), also known as adjectives, describe a noun. They come before the noun in a sentence, and can be possessive, demonstrative, indefinite and interrogative.
Click on the topics below to learn about the different types of pronouns and determiners in French grammar. At the end of each explanation, you can practise what you’ve learned in the free interactive exercises.
We use personal pronouns to replace a previously-mentioned noun, talk about ourselves, or talk about or to other people. French differentiates between strong forms and weak forms of personal pronouns.
- Eric chante une chanson. Il chante une chanson pour elle.Eric sings a song. He sings a song for her.
Possessives indicate possession or belonging. They can come before a noun to modify it or stand in its place.
- C’est ma valise.It’s my suitcase. (dependent)
C’est la mienne.It’s mine. (independent)
The reflexive pronouns are me, te, se, nous, vous. We use them with reflexive verbs. Reflexive pronouns always refer to the subject of the sentence.
- Je me regarde dans le miroir.I look at myself in the mirror.
Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses, which give additional information about an element in the main clause.
- La police cherche l’homme qui a attaqué la banque.The police is searching for the man who robed the bank.
Interrogative pronouns are question words. In French, these are qui, que, quoi, lequel, quel. In a question, they replace the noun that we are asking about.
- Qui a dit ça ?Who said that?
The demonstrative pronouns include e.g. ce, cet, celui-ci, celui-là. We use demonstrative pronouns to indicate or specify something in particular.
- Quelle voiture voulez-vous acheter, celle-ci ou celle-là ?Which car do you want to buy? This one or that one?
Indefinite pronouns and determiners allow us to talk generally about unknown people or things as well as indeterminate quantities. Some of the most common indefinite pronouns in French are on, personne, rien, aucun etc.
- Il n’y a aucun problème.There is no problem. (dependent)
- Est-ce que je peux faire quelque chose pour vous ?Can I do something for you? (independent)
The adverbial pronouns are y and en. These are technically adverbs that are used as pronouns. They replace nouns or clauses in a sentence.
- Elle va à l’école. Elle y va.She’s going to school. She’s going there.
Elle revient de l’école. Elle en revient.She’s coming back from school. She’s coming back from there.