I am regularly coming across the construction in French that uses an indirect object pronoun in combination with a direct object where English uses a possessive pronoun with the object (e.g. ça me gâche la vie for it's ruining my life) and I am wondering how widespread it is?

For example, could you translate 'it piqued my curiosity' as 'ça m'a éveillé la curiosité'?

  • French uses both ça gâche ma vie, ça me gâche la vie, ça pique ma curiosité, ça me pique la curiosité. fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/piquer_la_curiosit%C3%A9
    – None
    Aug 2, 2021 at 8:32
  • 1
    quite common indeed for body parts : ça me pique les yeux rather than ça pique mes yeux, tu me casses les pieds" rather than *tu casses mes pieds. But does not work for ça me pique la curiosité : we say ça piquer ma curiosité.
    – XouDo
    Aug 2, 2021 at 9:06
  • Ça gâche ma vie
    – None
    Aug 2, 2021 at 9:52
  • Ça attise ma curiosité.
    – jlliagre
    Aug 2, 2021 at 12:59
  • 1
    It's all over the place and it very much a spoken form due to the ça. Ça me semble intelligent [or idiot]. Ça leur paraît normal. Ça ne leur dit rien. A lot of stative verbs (sembler and paraître) but also with action verbs. Ça me coupe le souffle. Ça me tape sur les nerfs. But, of course, it goes on and on. Cheers.
    – Lambie
    Aug 2, 2021 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


Yes, this type of construction is very common in French.

Here are examples from None, XouDo and Lambie comments:

ça me pique les yeux
tu me casses les pieds ça me semble intelligent/idiot
ça leur paraît normal
ça ne leur dit rien
ça me coupe le souffle
ça me tape sur les nerfs

As already said, ça me pique la curiosité doesn't work. The reason is probably that the curiosité is too abstract and not related to a body part (or as a whole), unlike la vie and le souffle. See Why are both both definite article ("les") and possessive determiners ("mes", "tes") used here for body parts?

ça pique ma curiosité

Instead of piquer, you can also use attiser here:

ça attise ma curiosité


There's no "possessive pronoun" or "indirect object pronoun" in your examples to begin with.

The construction you're alluding to doesn't exist.

The "my" in "it's ruining my life" is not a possessive pronoun, it's a possessive adjective.

The "me", in "ça me gâche la vie", is not an indirect object pronoun, it is a reflexive pronoun. It is from se gâcher, a reflexive verb.

The first mistake you made can easily be solved with some basic grammar study.

But the second mistake is one of the frequent problems for English speakers learning French. These reflexive forms found in Romanic languages like French either aren't frequently used or simply don't exist in English. You can say "I love myself" in English. However, you can't say "I sleep myself" in English, but you can in French, "je me couche". You can't say "I mistake myself" in English, but you can in French, "je me trompe". These are all reflexive forms that contain the reflexive pronoun and the reflexive verb, it's a grammatical form that does exist in English, but one that is much less frequently used compared to other languages.

However, the same basic rules in English regarding pronouns apply in French, an indirect object pronoun can only exist if there is an indirect object that it replaces.

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