I wrote in an email:

Il lui coûterait sans doute de l’avouer, mais sa maîtrise de la cuisine japonaise est assez médiocre...

I haven’t given it much thought until now, but I wonder if the direct object pronoun « le {it} » can be used to refer to an idea that is only introduced later in the sentence?

The « le » in this sentence refers to the part after the « mais ». Is this usage allowed? I mean, compared to when « le {it} » refers to a preceding idea:

Sa maîtrise de la cuisine japonaise est assez médiocre, il lui coûterait sans doute de l’avouer.

The English equivalent would be:

I haven't realised this until now, but tomorrow is Christmas Eve!

  • I'm not sure I understand your question... If you're saying "can I say that ?" the answer is yes because I see nothing wrong in the French you wrote. Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 14:28

2 Answers 2


Yes, this construction is correct as long as the reader/listener is able to quickly understand what is behind the pronoun.

What is referred to is called the antecedent which is somewhat paradoxical because etymologically it means it is located before, not after.

There is a grammatical term to specify this particular case, it is a cataphore.


Yes, it is a correct construction. But it is preferable to introduce the idea in the same sentence (like you did in fact).

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.