What is a direct object?
A direct object is the person or thing that receives the action of the verb in a sentence. For example, in the sentence "I ate a sandwich," the sandwich is the direct object.
What are the French direct object pronouns and why are they used?
In order to avoid repeating nouns in a sentence or subsequent sentences, direct object pronouns are used to replace the direct object, and are always placed before the corresponding verb.
The French direct object pronouns are me, te, le/la, nous, vous, les.
Do you like this song? I hate it
Aimes-tu cette chanson? Je la déteste
The direct object here is the feminine noun chanson. The direct object pronoun la is used to replace chanson in order to avoid repeating it in the second sentence. Recall that object pronouns should be placed before the conjugated verb.
Do you know Henri? I know him well
Est-ce que tu connais Henri? Je le connais bien
The direct object here is the masculine proper noun Henri. The direct object pronoun le is used to replace Henri in order to avoid its repetition in the second sentence.
Have you seen Marie? Yes, I see her now
As-tu vu Marie? Oui, je la vois maintenant
The direct object here is feminine -- Marie. In the second sentence, her name is replaced by the direct object pronoun la, which comes before the conjugated verb.
Pierre, I saw you at the game
Pierre, je t'ai vu au match
The direct object pronoun goes before the conjugated auxiliary verb in the past tense. Also note that the pronoun is really te (for either gender), but that it changes here to t' in front of a vowel.
Here are the chairs that I took
Voilà les chaises que j'ai prises
Recall that when a verb is conjugated with the auxiliary verb avoir, its past participle usually does not change (to agree with the subject). However, when a verb conjugated in a compound tense (even an avoir verb) is preceded by its direct object, its participle agrees with the direct object.
The cars? I bought them
Les voitures? Je les ai achetées
The past participle of acheter agrees in number and gender with the preceding direct object, the feminine plural voitures, which is represented in the second sentence by a direct object pronoun, les. Note the placement of that pronoun before the auxiliary verb.
I am going to take my jacket to the dinner
Je vais emporter mon blouson au dîner
to take - emporter, emmener. The former should be applied to portable objects, while the latter should be applied to people or things you can't carry.
He brought his cousin to Jean's house
Il a amené son cousin chez Jean
to bring - apporter, amener. The former should be applied to portable objects, while the latter should be applied to people or things you can't carry.
The sweaters? I brought them
Les pulls? Je les ai apportés
Note the agreement of the participle with the preceding direct object pronoun.
He did not pick them up
Il ne les a pas ramassés
to pick up, to collect - ramasser. In a negative sentence containing an object pronoun, the negative ne precedes the object pronoun, which precedes the conjugated verb. The negative pas comes in-between the conjugated verb (a) and the past participle.
She is going to pick up the kids
Elle va récupérer les enfants
to pick up, to collect, to recover - récupérer. This verb can mean the same thing as ramasser -- "to collect" or "to pick up." That said, it can also mean "to recover" or "to recuperate."
You can bring your own wine
Tu peux apporter ton propre vin
own (adjective) - propre. Recall that this word can also mean "clean"; the determining factor is the placement around the noun. Used before the noun, propre takes on the possessive meaning; used after, it means "clean."
Did you hear the song? Yes, I heard it
As-tu entendu la chanson? Oui, je l'ai entendue
Note how the past participle agrees with the preceding direct object pronoun. The pronoun is really la, but it's changed to l' because the auxiliary verb begins with a vowel.
My dad is watching me play piano
Mon père me regarde jouer du piano
He is not listening to me
Il ne m'écoute pas
In this negative sentence, the negative ne comes before the direct object pronoun, which precedes the verb, which is finally followed by the negative pas.
They are leaving us
Ils nous quittent
They did not leave us
Ils ne nous ont pas quittés
Note how the ne comes first in this negative sentence, preceding the direct object pronoun, nous. Pas follows the conjugated auxiliary verb. Finally, the participle agrees with its preceding object pronoun.
(formal) I hear you well
Je vous entends bien
(formal) I heard you well
Je vous ai bien entendu
Note the placement of the adverb in between the auxiliary verb and the participle. Recall that short adverbs should follow the conjugated verb.
He loves them a lot
Il les aime beaucoup
He is going to eat the pizza. He is going to eat it
Il va manger la pizza. Il va la manger
Note the use of a direct object pronoun before an infinitive here. Whenever an object pronoun is the object of an infinitive, it should precede that infinitive.
The professor collected the homework that Jean was able to finish
Le professeur a ramassé les devoirs que Jean a pu finir
This is an exceptional case in which the participle (pu) does not agree with the preceding (plural) direct object. This is because the complementary infinitive, finir, is what really applies to the direct object.
(female speaker) I am pleased and they (women) are too
Je suis contente et elles le sont aussi
Note the special use here of the pronoun le, which is used to replace an adjective. Le does not change to match the gender and number of the adjective it replaces. Le can also be used this way to replace a complete idea.
Jean gives 20 euros to Paul each week
Jean donne 20 euros à Paul chaque semaine
to give - donner. This verb is conjugated in the present tense as follows: je donne, tu donnes, il/elle/on donne, nous donnons, vous donnez, ils/elles donnent.
What is an indirect object?
An indirect object is the person/thing to or for whom the action of a verb occurs. In French, indirect objects are generally preceded by the prepositions à or pour.
What are the French indirect object pronouns and why are they used?
Indirect object pronouns are used to replace the indirect objects in sentences to avoid repeating them. For the most part, indirect object pronouns are placed in front of the corresponding verb.
The French indirect object pronouns are me, te, lui, nous, vous, leur.
I often speak to Marie. I often speak to her
Je parle souvent à Marie. Je lui parle souvent
The indirect object of the verb parler is Marie. She is the person/thing to or for whom the action of the verb occurs. Notice how in the first sentence, Marie is preceded by à, which is the sign of an indirect object. In the second sentence, à Marie is replaced by the indirect object pronoun lui, which goes before the verb instead of after it.
She is giving the book to Jean. She is giving him the book
Elle donne le livre à Jean. Elle lui donne le livre
Jean is the indirect object in these sentences, as he is given the book, which is the direct object. One way to make this distinction is to ask "What?" and "To whom?" What is given? The book (direct object). To whom is the book given? Jean (indirect object). In the second sentence, à Jean is replaced by the indirect object pronoun lui, which goes before the verb.
She is speaking to me
Elle me parle
Here, the speaker is the person at whom the action of the verb parler is directed. The indirect object pronoun me eliminates the need for the prepositional phrase à moi: essentially, the awkward Elle parle à moi is replaced with the more natural Elle me parle.
I speak to her a lot
Je lui parle beaucoup
The indirect object pronoun lui applies to third-person singular indirect objects of both genders -- both to "him" and to "her." The French sentence would remain the same even if the English were, "I speak to him a lot."
I sang a song to them
Je leur ai chanté une chanson
Note how this sentence is in the past tense. In compound tenses, the indirect object pronoun comes before the (conjugated) auxiliary verb -- just like direct object pronouns do.
I'm going to give you guys shirts
Je vais vous donner des chemises
Note how there are two verbs in this sentence. The indirect object pronoun vous is placed before the second verb, the infinitive donner, because that is the verb that applies to the indirect object.
You're thinking about the boys. You're thinking about them
Tu penses aux garçons. Tu penses à eux
There are some French verbs that do not allow preceding indirect object pronouns. Penser à is one of them: you cannot say Tu leur penses. Instead, à should be kept after the verb, followed by the appropriate disjunctive pronoun, which in this case is eux.
I'm paying attention to my dad. I'm paying attention to him
Je fais attention à mon père. Je fais attention à lui
The expression faire attention à does not allow preceding indirect object pronouns. You cannot say Je lui fais attention. Instead, à should be kept after the verb, followed by the appropriate disjunctive pronoun, lui.
He is thinking about the story. He is thinking about it
Il pense à l'histoire. Il pense à cela
Recall that penser à does not allow preceding indirect object pronouns. You cannot say Il lui pense. Instead of using à + a disjunctive pronoun, however, you should follow the verb with à + an indefinite demonstrative pronoun (like cela). This is because the indirect object is a thing, not a person.
How can you distinguish between direct objects and indirect objects?
One way is to ask "What?" (direct) and "For whom?" (indirect).
Another way is to look for prepositions preceding the person or thing in question. If there is no preposition before it, it is a direct object. A person preceded by pour or à is an indirect object, and can be replaced by an indirect object pronoun.
(However, a person preceded by any other preposition, or a thing preceded by any preposition, cannot be replaced by an object pronoun.)
Identify the direct object and the indirect object: Il me raconte l'histoire.
The preposition à is implied here, with respect to the verb raconter. What's being told, l'histoire, is the direct object, while the person being told the story, the speaker (me), is the indirect object.
She is going to give them a gift
Elle va leur donner un cadeau
This sentence has both a direct object and an indirect object. The direct object cadeau receives the action of the verb donner. It's what is being given. Leur ("them") is the indirect object. The gift is being given to them -- the à is implied.
Can you show me your classroom?
Pouvez-vous me montrer votre salle de classe?
to show - montrer. The implied, more complete meaning here is montrer quelque chose à quelqu'un. Quelque chose is the classroom (the direct object), while quelqu'un is the speaker to whom the room is shown (the indirect object). The speaker is represented by the indirect object pronoun me.
Do you want to eat out?
Veux-tu aller au restaurant?
to eat out - aller au restaurant. Note that the expressions sortir dîner or manger dehors would also work.
I'm going to bring the food
Je vais apporter la nourriture
food - la nourriture
Do you want to order something to eat?
Veux-tu commander quelque chose à manger?
to order - commander
I especially like French food
J'aime surtout la nourriture française
especially, particularly - surtout. This adverb can also mean "above all." Note its placement after the conjugated verb.
I would like a coffee
Je voudrais un café
I would like... - Je voudrais... Note that this expression employs the conditional, which you will learn about elsewhere.
I am giving him (a piece of) advice
Je lui donne un conseil
(a piece of) advice - un conseil. Unlike the English word "advice," conseil can be easily used in the singular. This sentence literally translates as "I give him an advice."
I will have a sandwich
Je vais prendre un sandwich
I will have... - Je vais prendre... This construction is mostly used for ordering food, although it also applies to buying things at a counter (e.g. a pack of cigarettes) or on the phone.
I'm going to order a drink and a salad
Je vais commander une boisson et une salade
a drink - une boisson. Another way of saying "to have a drink" is prendre un verre, which literally means "to have a glass." Also note that salade is a feminine noun.
This salad has a good taste
Cette salade a un bon goût
taste - le goût, la saveur. Another way of translating the English here is simply Cette salade est très bonne.
Do you want to taste my pasta? I taste a lot of garlic in the pasta
Est-ce que tu veux goûter mes pâtes? Je sens beaucoup d'ail dans les pâtes
to taste - goûter, sentir. The former means "to taste" as in "to sample," while the latter means "to taste" as in "to detect the flavor of." L'ail ("garlic") is masculine, while les pâtes ("pasta") is feminine plural.
Where is the waiter?
Où est le serveur?
a waiter - un serveur. Note that a female server would be une serveuse.
I need a menu
J'ai besoin d'une carte
a menu - une carte. The masculine noun menu could also work but is less common.
to be thirsty - avoir soif. Note that j'ai soif literally translates to "I have thirst."
What did you leave as a tip?
Tu as laissé quoi comme pourboire?
a tip - un pourboire. Note the informal phrasing of the question.
Do you need a napkin?
As-tu besoin d'une serviette?
a napkin - une serviette. Note that this word also means "towel."
Maurice's son hates vegetables
Le fils de Maurice déteste les légumes
a vegetable - un légume
These fries are delicious
Ces frites sont délicieuses
delicious - délicieux. Note that frites is a feminine plural noun.
I would like fries on the side
Je voudrais des frites en accompagnement
on the side - en accompagnement
(May I have) the check, please?
L'addition, s'il vous plaît?
the check - l'addition. This is a feminine noun.
Is the service included?
Le service est compris?
Is the service included? - Le service est compris?
Have you eaten a meal yet?
Avez-vous déjà mangé un repas?
a meal - un repas. Note how "yet" can sometimes be expressed with déjà, which also means "already."
I'm allergic to potatoes
Je suis allergique aux pommes de terre
allergic - allergique. Note the construction allergique à. Also note the feminine noun for "potato," pomme de terre.
I ate a lot of seafood on my vacation
Pendant mes vacances, j'ai mangé beaucoup de fruits de mer
seafood - fruits de mer. This is a masculine plural noun that literally means "fruits of the sea."
Serena doesn't eat meat
Séréna ne mange pas de viande
meat - la viande
Cheese is well-liked in France
Le fromage est bien aimé en France
cheese - le fromage
Bread and cheese go well together
Le pain et le fromage vont bien ensemble
bread - le pain
I ate eggs for breakfast
J'ai mangé des oeufs au petit déjeuner
an egg - un oeuf. The "f" is only pronounced when this noun is singular.
I'm going to cook fish tomorrow
Je vais cuisiner du poisson demain
fish - le poisson
Do you want to order an appetizer?
Voulez-vous commander une entrée?
an appetizer - une entrée. Note that in English, an entrée usually refers to a main course.
I prefer ice cream over cake
Je préfère la glace au gâteau
to prefer over - préférer à. Note how à becomes au because the second noun is masculine.
He is studying a lot because his exam is going to be very hard
Il étudie beaucoup car son examen va être très difficile
for, as, because - car. You cannot begin a sentence with car. In this way, it is different from alternatives like puisque, parce que, and comme (which can begin sentences).
Because my mom isn't home, I am making dinner
Puisque ma mère n'est pas chez moi, je prépare le dîner
because, as, since - puisque. Unlike car, puisque can come at the start of a sentence. It can therefore be translated as "seeing that/as..."
I preferred the main course to the appetizer
J'ai préféré le plat principal à l'entrée
the main course - le plat principal. Note that plat means "dish," "course," or "plate." Used as an adjective, it means "flat."
Most people like fruit
La plupart des gens aiment les fruits
the majority of, most - la plupart de, la majorité de. Fruit is a masculine noun. Notice how the verb is conjugated in the third-person plural.
Units of length: kilometer, meter, centimeter, millimeter
Les unités de longueur: kilomètre, mètre, centimètre, millimètre
These are all masculine nouns. "A measurement" is une mesure.
Units of weight: kilogram, gram
Les unités de poids: kilo(gramme), gramme
These are masculine nouns.
Manhattan is 21.6 kilometers in length
Manhattan fait 21,6 kilomètres de longueur
long, in length - de longueur. Faire is used in expressions of measurement. Alternatively, you can use avoir like so: Manhattan a une longueur de 21,6 kilomètres. Also notice how the French use a comma instead of a decimal point.
The snow is ten centimeters deep
La neige fait dix centimètres de profondeur
deep, in depth - de profondeur. You could also say La neige est profonde de dix centimètres, or La neige a une profondeur de dix centimètres.
The photo is eight centimeters wide
La photo fait huit centimètres de large
wide, of width - de large. You could also say La photo est large de huit centimètres. "Width" is la largeur, while photo is a feminine noun.
I'm driving from Paris to Nice
Je conduis de Paris à Nice
to drive - conduire. This irregular verb is conjugated as follows in the present: je conduis, tu conduis, il/elle/on conduit, nous conduisons, vous conduisez, ils/elles conduisent.
two plus two equals four
deux plus deux égale quatre
___ plus ___ equals - ___ plus ___ égale. For a less formal way of doing addition, you can say 2 et 2 font 4.
five minus three equals two
cinq moins trois égale deux
minus - moins. For a less formal way of doing subtraction, you can say 5 moins 3 font 2.
two times three equals six
deux multiplié par trois égale six
multiplied, times - multiplié par. For a less formal way of doing multiplication, you can say 2 fois 3 font 6.
eight divided by two equals four
huit divisé par deux égale quatre
divided by - divisé par. For a less formal way of doing division, you can say 8 divisé par 2 fait 4. Notice how faire is singular rather than plural in division.
Sixty percent of the students are taking the same history course
Soixante pour cent des étudiants suivent le même cours d'histoire
percent - pour cent
to be enough, to suffice - suffire. Note that Ça suffit! is a common expression.
He is waiting for me
to wait - attendre
She sees you and me (us)
Elle nous voit, toi et moi
Note the use of disjunctive pronouns when there is more than one object in a sentence. They are added at the end here to specify exactly who makes up the nous.