Les pronoms personnels: personal pronouns in French

What is a personal pronoun?

We use personal pronouns (les pronoms personnels) to replace nouns. They refer to people and things that have already been mentioned, and reflect grammatical gender, person and number. Personal pronouns can be the subject or the object of the sentence and can take different forms depending on their role.

Learn all about personal pronouns in French grammar with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

J'ai une copine. Elle est très gentille et je l'aime beaucoup. J'ai une guitare et j'adore lui chanter des chansons. Vous ne les aimez peut-être pas mais elle seule ne les oublie pas:

Même quand il pleut, tu es mon soleil et tu me rends heureux.
Oh oui! Pour moi tu es l'amour de ma vie.
Nous nous aimerons pour toujours. Oh oui!

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List of personal pronouns in French grammar

We can organise the French personal pronouns into categories depending on their function in the sentence.

Person Subject Pronoun
(weak form)
Subject Pronoun
(strong form)
Direct Object Pronoun Indirect
Object
Pronoun
Object Pronoun
(strong form)
Singular 1st person je moi me / m’ me / m’ moi
2nd person tu toi te / t’ te / t’ toi
3rd person (m) il lui le / l’ lui lui
3rd person (f) elle elle la / l’ lui elle
Plural 1st person nous nous nous nous nous
2nd person vous vous vous vous vous
3rd person (m) ils eux les leur eux
3rd person (f) elles elles les leur elles

How to use personal pronouns in French grammar

Les pronoms sujets (subject pronouns)

As its name suggests, the subject pronoun takes the position of the subject in the sentence (who/what is performing the action).

Example:
J’ai une copine.I have a girlfriend.
Elle est très gentille.She is very sweet.
Je chante des chansons.I sing songs.

Les pronoms toniques sujets (stressed pronouns)

French differentiates between weak forms and strong or stressed forms of subject pronouns. The weak form is used when the subject pronoun is associated with a verb.

Example:
Elle est très gentille.She is very nice.

Strong or stressed pronouns are also known as emphatic pronouns. They allow us to emphasise the subject they refer to without using its name. We used stressed pronouns in the following cases:

  • when the pronoun is used alone (without a verb)
    Example:
    Qui chante des chansons? - Moi.Who sings songs? - Me.
  • for emphasis (often after c’est)
    Example:
    Lui, il est très gentil. / C’est lui qui est très gentil.He is very nice. / It’s him who is really nice.
  • when the pronoun comes after que in a comparison
    Example:
    Ma copine est plus jeune que moi.My girlfriend is younger than me.
  • when the pronoun is separated from the verb by the words seul, même, an adjective or a clause
    Example:
    Lui seul n’oublie pas mes chansons.He’s the only one who won’t forget my songs.

Les pronoms compléments (object pronouns)

The object pronoun takes the position of the object in the sentence (who/what is the direct receiver of the action). We differentiate between direct, indirect, and stressed object-pronouns.

Direct object-pronoun

The direct object-pronoun (le pronom complément d’objet direct) replaces a noun that comes directly after a verb without a preposition.

Examples:
J’aime Anne. Je l’aime.I love Anne. I love her.
Vous aimez les chansons. Vous les aimez.You like the songs. You like them.

Indirect object-pronoun

The indirect object-pronoun (le pronom complément d’objet indirect) replaces a noun as well as the preposition à, which introduces the indirect object.

Example:
J’ai chanté des chansons à ma copine. Je lui ai chanté des chansons.I sang songs to my girlfriend.
I sang her songs.

Stressed object-pronoun

The stressed object-pronouns are identical to the stressed subject-pronouns. The difference is that we used the stressed object-pronouns after a preposition.

Example:
J’écris des chansons avec elle (= ma copine).I write songs with her (= with my girlfriend).

The preposition à is an exception. Some verbs that are followed by à are used with the stressed object-pronoun, but only if the preposition introduces a person and not a thing. See the table below for a list of verbs and phrases with à that take the stressed object-pronoun.

Verb Translation Example
avoir affaire à qn to deal with sb. Vous avez affaire à un expert. Vous avez affaire à moi. You are dealing with an expert. You are dealing with me.
avoir recours à qn to turn to sb. Pierre est avocat. Tu devrais avoir recours à lui.Pierre is a lawyer. You should turn to him.
faire attention à qn to be careful with sb. Les enfants d’Anne sont entre de bonnes mains, la baby-sitter fait toujours très attention à eux.Anne’s children are in good hands, their baby-sitter is always very careful with them.
penser à qn to think of sb. Je pense à toi tous les jours.I think of you every day.
s’habituer à qn to get used to sb. Après trois ans de colocation, je m’entends bien avec Yannick. Je me suis habituée à lui.After three years of living in the same flat, I get along well with Yannick. I got used to him.
s’intéresser à qn to be interested in sb.

Tu t’intéresses à elle ? Si tu veux, je peux te la présenter.You are interested in her? If you want I can introduce you to her.

songer à qn to think of sb. Mes amis m’ont manqué lorsque j’étais à l’étranger. J’ai souvent songé à eux.I missed my friends when I was abroad. I often thought of them.
tenir à qn to care about sb. Je ne veux pas qu’il parte. Je tiens beacoup à lui.I don't want him to leave. I care about him very much.
s'adresser à qqn to speak to sb. Je vais aller voir M. Dupont. Je m'adresse toujours à lui si j'ai des questions.I'll go and see M. Dupont. I always speak to him when I have questions.
se fier à qqn to trust in sb. Je ne fais confiance à personne. Je ne me fie qu'à moi.I don't trust anybody. I only trust in myself.