I read a little bit of an article, that has the following:

Dans ses vidéos humoristiques, verre de vin à la main, il nous surprend de semaine en semaine en parlant de tout et de rien avec son humour qui lui est propre.

Looking at the two "propre à" entries on WordReference, I figure that the end of the above sentence is either "with his humor that is particular to him", or "with his humor that is suitable for him".

My question is if the following two are completely equivalent, and if not, what is the difference? And is there a reason why the author chose the first way instead of the second?

  • "qui lui est propre" (as written in the text)
  • "qui est propre à lui"

1 Answer 1


The first form is far more usual and is idiomatic.

It is not specific to propre:

  • qui lui est cher
  • qui lui est donné
  • qui lui est confié
  • qui lui est nécessaire
  • ...

The second one is used when an adjective qualifies lui like in:

...avec un humour qui est propre à lui seul. (or ...propre à lui-même)

  • is the first form preferred for all (or most) verbs that are of the form " [verb] à qqn" ? or is it just "propre à" (and maybe a few other verbs) that prefer the first form?
    – silph
    Jan 28, 2019 at 8:52
  • 1
    Most if not all ones use the first form.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 28, 2019 at 9:01
  • The second form is awkward and doesn't feel right because it expects more than just "lui" as jlliagre showed with "a lui seul". Jan 28, 2019 at 11:14

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