My French is not good enough to ask this question in French, but hopefully I can understand the answers!
I bought a copy of Le Petit Prince in French and I have been reading it to improve my French. At the moment I would be lucky to fully understand half of the sentences.
In chapter IX, the Little Prince leaves his planet and says good-bye to his flower:
– J'ai été sotte, lui dit-elle enfin. Je te demande pardon. Tâche d'être heureux.
In chapter X, he meets a king. He says:
– Sire, lui dit-il… je vous demande pardon de vous interroger…
I have two questions about these phrases.
- I understand lui as the object, e.g. Je le lui donne - I give it to him, so why does it appear directly before the verb dit in lui dit-il?
- I understand dit-elle as one way of asking a question, e.g. Dit-elle ça? - Did she say that? Why is the verb before the pronoun in lui dit-elle? The hyphen makes it look as though the verb and il/elle belong together but I think that the verb actually belongs to lui
My naïve translations are « lui dit-elle » - *"to him said she" when it should be "he said to her" and « lui dit-il » - *"to him said he" when it should be "he said to him" but they are obviously faulty.
I noticed the phrase lui dit-il first, and I thought that lui was referring to the king and il was referring to the Little Prince, instead of the other way around. Something like "to the king said the prince" when it is actually "the prince said to the king". Then I went searching for a feminine version (which is hard because there are very few female characters!) and found lui dit-elle, so I knew my understanding was wrong but I couldn't explain why.
I may have made mistakes in my French examples...