In this French kid's book, it says "je suis petite, moi ?"

What does the 'moi' do grammatically? Is it a way to ask the question more informally vs "suis-je petit?" or "est ce que je suis petit?"

  • 2
    It is a way to insist on the question. We could translate it by Am I small, am I ? or Am I small, really / for real ?, we could replace it by vraiment also in French. Depending on the context, we could think that it is something bothering the person asking the question.
    – user20904
    Jul 18 '19 at 7:20
  • @stbr's interpretation seems to be the way it's actually used in the linked children's book (you can "Look Inside" the book on Amazon, at least in my country.) Jul 18 '19 at 15:47
  • Off topic, but your question reminds me of a well known English joke which is only two words long, and cannot be directly translated into French: "Pretentious? Moi?" I suppose you could do "Prétentieux? Me?" , but since humor doesn't always translate well, is that remotely amusing to those with French as their first language? .
    – skomisa
    Jul 19 '19 at 3:24
  • French version of "You are talking to me?". Jul 19 '19 at 6:20
  • @skomisa In English the French language is often used to elevate the language, which is not conversely the case in French. So the issue is not about translation but rather about the standing of loanwords in the respective languages. So no this won't work i.e. "me" doesn't feel elevated in French imho. It could make for an interesting translation/equivalents question, so don't hesitate to ask it.
    – user19187
    Jul 19 '19 at 23:01

This sentence is usually a reply to a remark, typically:

— Tu es petite !

— Je suis petite, moi ?

The remark is repeated to confirm what has been heard or understood, and moi ? is a way to state a strong disagreement and/or surprise.

That would correspond to the English:

— You are small!

— Me? small ? (i.e. Are you sure you are talking about me?)

The question mark makes a difference. Without it, moi would insist on the fact of being small, unlike other(s):

— Je suis grand. (I'm tall)

— Je suis petite, moi ! ((Me,) Unlike you, I'm small)

There is also a slight possibility per the question to be genuine, i.e. for the girl to ask if she belongs to the category or not. e.g.:

— On va faire deux groupes, les petites à ma droite et les grandes à ma gauche.

— Je suis petite, moi ?

In that case, the question would indeed mean, "Am I (among the) small (ones)?"

Interestingly, in the kid's book referenced, both forms are present. The first one (in its shortened form):

Petite ? Moi ? (Me? Small?)

reacting to the statement:

Tamia est encore très petite (Tamia is still very small)

and the second one:

Je suis petite, moi ? (Am I small?)

when Tamia seek the views of others.


Moi is the strong form of je. Unlike English, where you can stress I in for example I did it, as opposed to someone else did it. Je l'ai fait is not possible, weak forms of pronouns cannot be stressed, you'd have to use moi and say : c'est moi qui l'ai fait.

The strong forms of the French pronouns are : moi for je, toi for tu, lui for il, elle for elle, nous for nous, vous for vous, eux for ils and elles for elles. In your example we'd get accordingly :

  • je suis petite, moi ?
  • tu es petit(e), toi ?
  • il est petit, lui ?
  • elle est petite, elle ?
  • nous sommes petit(e)s, nous ?
  • vous êtes petit(e)s, vous ?
  • ils sont petits, eux ?
  • elles sont petites, elles ?
  • 1
    As an additional note on this, English has a similar form for emphasising statements: for example, "I'm small, I am." This is more colloquial than formal, and perhaps more likely to be encountered in northern England. English does not have a similar form for questions though.
    – Graham
    Jul 18 '19 at 16:31
  • 1
    Similarly, in parts of Scotland, an emphasis can be added with "so I am" e.g "It's hot in here - I'm boiling, so I am" Jul 19 '19 at 1:26
  • Stressing the personal pronoun is not impossible in French, unless when it is affected by élision. For example in: Je parles, tu écoutes. I agree moi, je, toi, tu are more common.
    – jlliagre
    Jul 20 '19 at 11:00
  • 1
    @jiliagre Granted, it does occur. I see this as kind of an anglicism though, like in some cheap US series (The Young and the Restless comes to mind) where dubbing is done on the cheap and goes really bad.
    – user21018
    Jul 20 '19 at 13:22
  • Graham says that "English does not have a similar form for questions." Not true. "I'm small, am I?" or, in very low register, "I'm small, ain't I?" Back to the French. The moi is very much like a dative of interest in Latin, emphasizing the relationship to the individual herself: "as for me." Here, you might compare another common word order for the sentence, commonly heard in speech but not "soutenu": "Moi, je suis petite." Jul 24 '19 at 0:54

You can suppose that

"Je suis petite, moi ?"

comes as a reply to a personal remark, although it may not always be the case.

For example, it would be correct to say "Je suis petite, moi ?" if you hear a politician saying that all women are small. It doesn't necessarily have to be directly directed at you, but using the "moi" is there to show that you personally take offense to what was previously said.

You can also use it sarcastically, if you have self-derision about the fact that you are small :

  • Les gens de ta famille sont petits.
  • Je suis petite, moi ? (says the person who knows they're small)

In general,

Moi, Toi, Lui, Elle, Nous, Vous, Eux

after a question is used as an emphasis of the perceived absurdity of a remark that was previously made.


“Je suis petite, moi?”, purpose of the “moi”?

The purpose of the moi, is that it is the object form of case.

The Je is nominative form the first person aspect of case, while the moi is a pronoun meaning me, the moi or me in english is the object case, it is a pronoun in place of the je meaning I.

Basically the sentence is read left to right "but" it is understood semantically the opposite way when you are trying to understand french. So read the sentence to understand its meaning from right to left.

Moi, me -the object case- of what the sentence is about, meaning the action \ verb is done to or for it.

This means that -the agent \ nominative case - the active doer of action being the nominative case the "Je" or I , does the action to or for the object or is being "that" thing or action, meaning the verb its active being or doing to or for it, the object case.

So read : “Je suis petite, moi?”, purpose of the “moi”?

Moi, ME, am I small or petite? (The question is am I being seen as little or small?)

Me\ Moi the object or the point of the sentence, am I is the way to read the suis being am and it is in relationship to the nominative NOUN the AGENT or doer of action the I or Je, and the petite or small or little is the verb or action that is being done, or in this instance being questioned.

When you say it in the positive affirmative you say :

Je suis petite, I am small, or I am little.

In the negative you say: Je ne suis pas petite.

I am not little. You put "ne" in front of the action or verb and "pas" behind it, if you want to make it a negative meaning "not" that thing, action or verb.

So to answer the question:

“Je suis petite, moi?”, purpose of the “moi”?

The purpose of "moi" it is the OBJECT of the sentence.

The different cases are used to designate semantic meaning so you can understand the difference between who is doing the action and who the action is done to or for whom.

Whom is the OBJECT CASE of WHO.

WHOM is the PATIENT and it has the action done to or for it!

WHO is the nominative case it is the AGENT it does the action or is BEING the action.

In English we do not have the different cases with added modification because the phrase grammar structure in English helps us to understand, BUT in the ROMANCE LANGUAGES like French or Spanish it originates along with about 6 others from LATIN and it has different structure.

It has a word written and it is written the SAME for the AGENT or the PATIENT and the ONLY way to know the difference and to be able to understand the meaning and to interpret the sentence , it is to ADD CASE designation, to identify which CASE it means in the sentence, and you CHANGE the AFFIXES, PREFIXES AND SUFFIXES, to identify which place in the sentence it should have.

That means the word is conjugated in its different CASES.

There are six cases of Latin nouns that are commonly used.

Nouns = NOMINATIVE CASE=AGENT, pronouns refer to nouns,

Possessive = own's it the word it is modifying =GENITIVE CASE


adjectives, and participles are declined in two numbers (singular and plural) and in six principal cases,

(Nominative= NOUNS, Genitive=ownership, Dative= Object, Accusative, Ablative\locative =PREPOSITIONS which are to or from or the POSITION of it, and instrumental= what the action is done with, Vocative= the person who is being addressed or talked to or at in the sentence so you can understand what other word or person is being talked to and differentiate it from who is doing the talking, vocative is WHOM the OBJECT that is being talked to or at their direction, it differs from the basic OBJECT or DATIVE because you can be talking to a person about another person or thing and the thing or whom they talk about is the OBJECT.

SO you see in french, it originates from Latin and it still has many of the case changes in words.

I= JE = NOMINATIVE the person who is being or doing the verb or the action.

Me= MOI the DATIVE CASE or OBJECT CASE the one whom the action is done to or for , it is a pronoun, in place of the noun, so it -me- is a different case form of I.

The CASE is the purpose, it helps you under the meaning, to interpret the ROLE it plays in the sentence. It helps you understand if it does the action or has the action done to it!

In French read the understanding from right to left. I know that is backwards from the way you read it. When you read it you say the words from left to right.

I know your next question will be WHY is it like that?

It is like that because the ORIGINAL language at the start of the world was HEBREW , the language of the JEWS, GOD first gave language and they spoke HEBREW and when you read that language on the page they READ IT OUT LOUD FROM RIGHT TO LEFT, finish<-----------Start.

“Je suis petite, moi?” ------------->

"אני קטן, אני?" <---------------------

So all language when it is understood and translated from it into Latin, was UNDERSTOOD that way, even though the Romans, or Latin speakers speak the other way, from Left to Right-------> same as French and English.

WHY did it CHANGE? At Babel GOD caused peoples of the world to be separated into different Nations, and Languages so that they would spread out and build up society apart from each other, so they would not stay all together or fight over the same territory and so they would not forget HE YHVH JESUS IS GOD. He reminded them to be HUMBLE and dependent upon HIM and to form society as HE wanted so it would be healthy and function right. In a good way. We were all given differences to learn to respect each others uniqueness! That way we needed each other and GOD MOST IMPORTANTLY!

Hope that helps to explain why languages are a bit different and have evolved over time, the CASE system can be difficult at first but once you learn to apply the different endings to designate which element or type of phrase structure it is then you will be okay.

There are NOUN PHRASES = NOMINATIVE Verb PHRASES ADJECTIVE PHRASES AND ADVERB PHRASES get changed according to the type of word they modify so adjectives modify nouns in either the NOMINATIVE AGENT CASE or in the OBJECTIVE DATIVE CASE when it is to or for whom, so give the romance language adjectives the same type of ending as the CASE they are modifying!

The ablative = to or Lative= away from is the PREPOSITIONS

VOCATIVE is whoever the statement is being addressed to if they are mentioned in the sentence . SO if I said, Governor you are being recorded by the reporters. Then I am addressing the Governor and it would be in the VOCATIVE CASE for the word Governor because I spole to him in the sentence.

The INSTRUMENT CASE is what the action was done with so the recording device, say if a cell phone was used to capture sound and it was mentioned that the reporter had one in his hand then it would be written in the instrument CASE.

Do you see how changing the CASE helps to understand the purpose?! You stated it correctly when you realized that the change of CASE was indicating the PURPOSE of the word in the sentence, so GOOD JOB at interpreting the French. Keep up the good work! Keep learning you will be great at it with practice! :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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