These two phrases never cease to confuse me. I always say:

  • Je les ai envoyeur mon message
  • Je les ai dit de ne pas me perturber
  • Je les avais fait comprendre la phrase ...

So on so forth. I can not distinguish when it is appropriate to use "Je leur ai...".

For me, "Je les ai.." sounds a lot similar in meaning to "I ... them"

Is there some sort of mnemonical solution to understand their use-cases?

  • To correct your 3 sentences, which are wrong : «Je leur ai envoyé mon message», «Je leur ai dit de ne pas me perturber», «Je leur avais fait comprendre la phrase»
    – Random
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 9:02
  • In English, "them" (as in "I sent them my message") can be an indirect object. In French, it's leur. Them sometimes is a direct object in English, as in "I gave them back to you yesterday." Then it is les in French. Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


First, let me correct the phrases you mentioned:

  • Je leur ai envoyé mon message
  • Je leur ai demandé de ne pas me perturber
  • Je leur avais fait comprendre la phrase

Now, let's come back to your question: you are confused with leur and les.

There is one simple rule that makes a huge difference between them and which will help you to distinguish definitely between them:

  1. Remember that leur is the plural of lui. It always has the role of complément d'objet indirect.
  2. Les plays always the role of complément d'objet direct. Examples:
    • Je les ai mangés: I have eaten them
    • Elle les a oubliées: She has forgotten them
  • Nice explanation! This is off-topic, but I notice that with “leur”/coi there’s no agreement/accord with compound verbs, but with “les”/cod there is. Is the extra “e” in oubliées there because the cod “les” is replacing multiple feminine things (this is my guess) or is it somehow related to the feminine subject (Elle)? Also ( and even further off-topic, please forgive me), in “Je les ai envoyé(?**s**?)+ infinitive [chier, par exemple!] (where it seems that “envoyer” doesn’t require a oi/coi), should there be agreement with ‘les’=envoyé[e]**s**? Thanks!
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 15:38
  • 1
    Your question is on topic, do not worry. Nice that you noticed oubliées : yes, I supposed she has forgotten lot of feminine things as you said :) It does not refer to Elle. I did it by intention to highlight you the idea of COD when it comes to les. For 2nd question: we say envoyées or envoyés depending on what you sent: feminine things then use the first, but use the last for masculine things
    – user6768
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 15:44

There's no mnemonic - it's a question of whether the French verb needs à. Envoyer and dire do - envoyer quelque chose à qqun and dire quelque chose à qqun, so your first two are wrong. The correct grammar is

Je leur ai envoyé...

Je leur ai dit...

But the causative doesn't take à unless there's also a direct object. So je leur ai fait comprendre la phrase but je les ai fait comprendre.

  • Il faut toujours envisager le contexte : Dire quelque chose à quelqu'un, c'est lui parler ; à désigne un mouvement vers -- Dire quelque chose de quelqu'un, c'est parler de cette personne à une autre personne ; de désigne un mouvement à partir de.
    – Personne
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 17:09
  • This is a good example. I will see if I get more of the same before I accept it. So, for example, if I was to use the word reconter, since it is used as raconter qqun this means, the right form to use would be Je les ai ranconte?
    – samayo
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 17:40
  • No, once again, it's raconter qqchose à qqun, so Je leur ai raconté. Here's an example with les: Je les ai écoutés because in French it's écouter not "écouter à."
    – lkl
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 18:02
  • 1
    Its simply a matter of knowing which verbs use «à», which «de», which both, or which sometimes. For a learner, sometimes memorization helps but the real key is practice and correct practice. After 4 years of french, «je les ai envoyé mon message» hits my eat funny. I gave my message them? To them, thus «je leur ai ...» Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 18:36
  • 1
    Pour la troisième phrase, le modèle est plutôt faire comprendre qqchose à qq'un, donc l'exemple est erroné: on dit plutôt "je leur avais fait comprendre la phrase".
    – biozic
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 20:05

Rule of thumb (the other answers are more complete and will also explain the why):

Je leur ai fait une faveur. = I made them a favor. = I made a favor to them.
Mes devoirs, je les ai faits. = My homework, I did it. = I did to my homework.

If you are speaking of something receiving the action (COI, see Begueradj's answer), then you will use leur. If the pronoun is the object of the action (COD, same answer), then you will use les.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.