French Grammar: Indirect Object Pronouns

French Grammar: Indirect Object Pronouns

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French Grammar: Indirect Object Pronouns
la grammaire française: les compléments d’objet indirect

Indirect Object Pronouns let us know to or for whom/what an action is intended. Don’t get them confused with Direct Object Pronouns or Double Object Pronouns!


An indirect object is a person or thing in a sentence “to whom/what” or “for whom/what” an action is performed.  An indirect object therefore answers the question “to whom/what?” or “for whom/what?” (is the action happening/intended).


À qui est-ce que tu parles?  Je parle à Maurice.
To whom are you (familiar) talking?  I am talking
to Maurice.

Pour qui est-ce qu’elle achète le cadeau?  Elle achète le cadeau pour sa mère.
For whom is she buying the gift?  She is buying the gift
for her mother.

In the first example, Maurice is the indirect object.  The action happens to Maurice.  In the second example, sa mère (her mother) is the indirect object.  The action is intended for her mother.

Indirect Object Pronouns take the place of indirect objects.  In French, indirect object pronouns can ONLY refer to people or other animate nouns (usually animals) – they never refer to things.  Therefore, French indirect object pronouns only answer the question “to whom?” or “for whom?” (is the action happening/intended)

Indirect Object Pronouns:

ME / M’ : to me / for me
TE / T’ : to you (familiar) / for you (familiar)
LUI : to him / to her / for him / for her
NOUS : to us / for us
VOUS : to you (formal / plural) / for you (formal / plural)
LEUR : to them / for them

Note that before a vowel or silent ‘h’, me becomes m’ and te becomes t’.

As with direct object pronouns, French indirect object pronouns usually come before the verb:

Elle me parle.
She is talking TO me.

Je ne lui dis pas les nouvelles.
I am not telling the news TO him.

Leur achetez-vous des jouets?
Are you all buying some toys FOR them?

Ne te donne-t-il pas un cadeau ce Noël?
Isn’t he giving a gift TO you (familiar) this Christmas?

In compound tenses, French indirect object pronouns usually come before the auxiliary (“helper”) verb:

Je leur ai dit la vérité.
I told the truth TO them.

Nous ne vous aurions pas écrit.
We would not have written TO you (formal).

When an indirect object pronoun is used with an infinitive, that indirect object pronoun comes before the verb of which it is the object (usually, the infinitive):

Il voudrait nous parler.
He would like to speak TO us.

Je ne vais pas te donner mon numéro de téléphone.
I am not going to give my telephone number to you (familiar).


(1) In both English and French, an indirect object can be either an animate or an inanimate noun.  In English, an indirect object pronoun can also be either an animate or an inanimate noun.  In French, an indirect object can be replaced by an indirect object pronoun ONLY IF the indirect object it replaces is an animate noun (i.e., a person or an animal).  An indirect object that is inanimate can only be replaced by the adverbial pronoun ‘Y’.

Je lui réponds.
I am responding to HIM.

J’y réponds.
I am responding to IT.

(2) With third person indirect object pronouns (lui and leur), it is acceptable to use a stressed pronoun after the verb and the preposition à in order to clarify whether the indirect object pronoun refers to a masculine or feminine person/people.

Je lui parle, à lui.
I am talking to HIM.

Je lui parle, à elle.
I am talking to HER.

Je leur parle, à eux.
I am talking to THEM (masculine).

Je leur parle, à elles.
I am talking to THEM (feminine).

(3)  There are several verbs that take direct objects in English but that take indirect objects in French.  These include:

aller bien à (quelqu’un) : to look nice on (someone)

convenir à (quelqu’un) : to suit (someone) / to be convenient for (someone)

désobéir à (quelqu’un) : to disobey (someone)

obéir à (quelqu’un) : to obey (someone)

plaire à (quelqu’un) : to please (someone)

rendre visite à (quelqu’un) : to visit (someone)

(Always use rendre visite à to express visiting a person/people.  The verb visiter is ONLY used with places or locations, never with people!)

répondre à (quelqu’un) : to respond to (someone) / to answer (someone)

ressembler à (quelqu’un) : to look like (someone) / to resemble (someone)

téléphoner à (quelqu’un) : to phone (someone) / to call (someone)


Qu’est-ce qu’elle t’a donnée?
What did she give to you (familiar)?

Elle m’a donné un cadeau pour mon anniversaire.
She gave me a gift for my birthday.

Qu’est-ce que tu lui as dit?
What did you (familiar) say to him?

Je lui ai dit de rentrer bientôt pour manger.
I told him to return home to eat soon.

Voilà une invitation.  Répondez, s’il vous plaît (R.S.V.P.) !
Here is an invitation.  Respond, please (if it is pleasing to you)!

Qui vous a téléphoné?
Who phoned you all?

Thérèse nous a téléphoné.
Thérèse telephoned us.