I know that the pronoun en can't be used to replace individual/specific humans. The following sentences illustrate this:

(5) J'ai peur de rater mon examen. --> J'en ai peur.
(6) J'ai peur de mon prof. --> J'ai peur de lui.

(taken from p. 234 of "The structure of modern standard French"by Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen)

We aren't allowed to replace de mon prof with the pronoun en, so the most we can replace with a pronoun is replacing mon prof with the stressed pronoun lui.

I'm wondering if I can always use "lui" in a similar way, even when I could replace the preposition as well. Is the following is allowed? (Original sentences taken from page 21 of the same book) :

J'ai remercié Paul de son cadeau.
--> J'ai remercié lui de son cadeau.

J'ai parlé de l'affaire à Max.
--> J'ai parlé de l'affaire à lui.

  • Your first example is not possible. You'd have to say Je l'ai remercié de/pour son cadeau. I'd probably prefer pour in this instance, but de is possible too. If you want to emphasize lui, you can say Je l'ai remercié, lui, de son cadeau. Your second example is possible, but only if lui is strongly emphasized (for example, in opposition to someone else you might have told about it, e.g., J'en ai parlé à lui, pas à elle.) If lui isn't stressed, you say Je lui ai parlé de l'affaire.
    – Anonymous
    Aug 9, 2021 at 20:26
  • Check transitivity first. J'ai parlé de l'affaire à Max = Je lui ai parlé de l'affaire. Yes, because: parler à quelqu'un de quelque chose. Whereas: remercier quelqu'un de/pour takes a direct object, not an indirect one: Je l'ai remercié de son cadeau.
    – Lambie
    Aug 9, 2021 at 21:04
  • In light of LPH's answer below, let me clarify that I didn't say that de was improper. I said that my own preference would be for pour. However, LPH's evidence shows that de is more common here than is pour.
    – Anonymous
    Aug 9, 2021 at 22:37
  • @Anonymous I apologize for the misrepresentation of your opinion in my answer; I must have read it with too little care. I made a correction to my answer.
    – LPH
    Aug 10, 2021 at 10:58
  • @LPH Aucun problème. J'ai trouvé ce Ngram intéressant.
    – Anonymous
    Aug 10, 2021 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


I J'ai remercié lui de son cadeau.

Cela n'est correct en aucun cas.

"De" is quite proper in this context (ngram), even if, as user Anonymous shows in a comment, some might prefer "pour" ; it is, however, difficult to find "pour" wrong; here is a full page of cases of similar contexts. Il semblerait que le nombre important de cas récents montre une influence provenant de l'anglais, bien que l'usage ne soit pas pris à l'anglais (des cas datent du 19ième siècle).

(TLFi) ♦ [Avec un compl. prép. introd. par de, de + prop. inf./ compl., pour, et précisant la cause] Remercier qqn de sa complaisance, de sa franchise; remercier qqn de l'envoi (d'un colis,...); remercier qqn pour son accueil.

The only way to formulate this is as follows.

               Je l'ai remercié de son cadeau.

II J'ai parlé de l'affaire à lui.

This is also incorrect, except in cases when a corrective is necessary in the dialogue, as follows.

  • — Tu leur a parlé de l'affaire alors ? Qu'est-ce qu'ils en pensent ?
    — J'ai parlé de l'affaire à lui ; elle n'était pas là. ("lui" is stressed in this case.)

This is also correct when there is a modification such as found in the following examples.

  • J'ai parlé de l'affaire seulement à lui.
  • Je n'ai parlé de l'affaire qu'à lui.
  • J'ai parlé de l'affaire à lui-même, oui, je lui ai parlé en personne.

If one wants to insist upon the fact that others were excluded, "à lui" (stressed) is fronted. This formulation is also used to insist on who was the recipient of a particular action, but then "lui" is not stressed.

  • À lui j'ai parlé de l'affaire.

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