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I am currently studying for my French final (which I'm retaking because I already failed once). Most of the material I understand but there's one thing that I am struggling with and I have not received any help from my prof.

Here is the question from one of the assignments:

  1. Rewrite the following sentences by replacing the italicized words with a direct or an indirect object pronoun. (10 points)

a. Achètes-tu la voiture bleue ?

b. Je peux rencontrer tes parents demain ?

c. Le professeur parle aux étudiants.

d. Janine téléphone à son enfant.

e. Il n’aime pas Adèle.

f. Doit-elle faire la cuisine ?

g. Il veut acheter un chalet à sa femme.

h. Aimes-tu les nouilles ?

i. Paul et Joseph vont parler à Michèle.

j. Nous préparons le dîner.

If someone can either provide the answers for these examples so I can extrapolate the form from that or even better would be to explain how to do this that would be great.

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  • We can answer questions about pronouns and how to use them if you can show what is problematic for you, and only one question per question. Please take a moment to edit. There are related questions on the site that might help your research.
    – livresque
    May 2 at 2:04

3 Answers 3

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The following explanation should be sufficient to treat a majority of the cases, including those found in the exercise.

How to do that is simple after you have practiced a little or after you have read a few books, as then you do it without thinking about it. For now you have to think carefully every time. We'll use the following references to find the basic principles : « Français Facile 1 », « Français Facile 2 ».

1/ You must determine what is the type of the verb, which amounts to determining if a preposition is use with it;

  • transitif direct : no preposition
  • transitif indirect : a preposition is found between verb and noun phrase

Sometimes, in this first step, there is an additional problem: the preposition can "appear" in a word that results from a substitution of one single word for the combination of the two successive words, the preposition "à" and an article ("le", "les"); this word is still called an article, an "article contracté" in French. To compoud the problem, there are plain articles that have the same form as the "article contracté" "des".

  • du → de le
  • au → à le
  • des → de les (not to be confused with partitive article "des" and plural indefinite article "des")
  • aux → à les

There are two prepositions to consider, "à" and "de".

2/ Finally, you determine the gender and number of the noun phrase, and whether it is an animate being or an inanimate one.

3/ You select the pronoun from the table of correspondence between combination "gender / number / whether animate or not" and pronoun.

DIRECT pronoun INDIRECT pronoun
MS le (avec "à") MS, FS, animé lui
FS la (avec "à") MP, FP, animé leur
MS, (before a vowel) FS l' (avec "de") MS, FS, MP, FP en
MP, FP les (avec "à") MS, FS, MP, FP, inanimé y
(art. indéf. sing., pl., art. mass.) MS, FS, MP, FP en
(v.pron. avec "à") MS, animé à lui
(v.pron. avec "à") FS, animé à elle
(v.pron. avec "à") MP, animé à eux
(v.pron. avec "à") FP, animé à elles

Let's see how that works.

a. Achètes-tu la voiture bleue ?

"la", plain article, therefore no prep., direct; noun phrase is FS; "achètes" starts with vowell'

  • L' achètes-tu ?

b. Je peux rencontrer tes parents demain ?

Determiner is no article; so no preposition, direct; noun phrase is MP; → les

  • Je peux les rencontrer demain ?

c. Le professeur parle aux étudiants.

"aux" is "à les" so there is a prep., "à", indirect; "étudiants" is MP animé; → leur

  • Le professeur leur parle.

d. Janine téléphone à son enfant.

prep. "à", so indirect; noun phrase MS animé; → lui

  • Janine lui téléphone.

e. Il n’aime pas Adèle.

no prep., so direct; noun phrase FS animé, "aime" starts vowel; → l'

  • Il ne l' aime pas.

f. Doit-elle faire la cuisine ?

plain article, no prep., therefore direct; noun phrase FS; → la

  • Doit-elle la faire ?

g. Il veut acheter un chalet à sa femme.

prep. "à", so indirect; noun phrase FS animé; → lui

  • Il veut lui acheter un chalet.

h. Aimes-tu les nouilles ?

plain article, so no prep., *direct; noun phrase FP; → les

  • Les aimes-tu ?

i. Paul et Joseph vont parler à Michèle.

prep. "à", so indirect; noun phrase FS animé; → lui

j. Nous préparons le dîner.

plain article, so no proep. direct; noun phrase MS; → le


Let's now consider other cases.

a'1) Achètes-tu des pommes ?

"des" is art. indéf. pl.; noun phrase FPen

  • En achètes-tu ?

a'2) Achètes-tu de la confiture ?

"de la" is art. mass.; noun phrase FSen

  • En achètes-tu ?

a'3) Il n'a pas d'enfants ?

"d'" is art. indéf. pl.; noun phrase MPen

  • Il n'en a pas.

a'4) Il n'a pas de vélo ?

"de" is art. indéf. sing.; noun phrase MSen

  • Il n'en a pas ?

f') Doit-elle faire de la cuisine.

art. mass."de la", so direct; noun phrase FS; → en

  • Doit-elle en faire ?

g. Il veut acheter un chalet à sa femme.

prep. "à", so indirect; noun phrase FS; → lui

  • Il veut lui acheter un chalet

plain art., so no prep., direct; noun phrase MS; → le

  • Il veut le lui acheter.

k) Il porte le ballon à la plage.

  • Il le porte à la plage.

prep. "à", so indirect; noun phrase inanimé; → y

  • Il l'y porte.

Pronominal verbs

x1) Il s'en est pris à la cuisinière.

prep."à", so indirect; "s'en prendre", loc.verbale pronominale; noun phrase FS être animé; → à elle

  • Il s'en est pris à elle.

x2) Le gendarme s'est adressé au voleur.

"au" is "à le", so prep."à", so indirect; "s'adresser", v. pronominal; noun phrase MS être animé; → à lui

  • Il s'est adressé à lui.

x3) Ils se sont rendus aux urnes.

"au" is "à le", so prep."à", so indirect; "se rendre", v. pronominal; noun phrase FP être non animé; → y

  • Il s'y sont rendus.
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  • This is such a great answer! May 3 at 9:21
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Something important to keep in mind is that sometimes it's not the same in French and English: it's the preposition in French that determines whether you're dealing with a direct object or indirect object in French.

For example,

I see the radio = Je vois la radio.

"Radio" is the direct object in both languages.

However:

I'm listening to the radio = J'écoute la radio.

In English, "radio" is an indirect object. But in French, the verb écouter means "to listen to" - there is no preposition after it. So in French, radio is the direct object:

Je l'écoute, not "Je lui écoute."

Same thing for regarder ("to look at") and payer ("to pay for").

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  • Yes, sentences that will take an indirect object substitution will have an à, ones that don't, won't.
    – Lambie
    May 3 at 17:32
  • 1
    This answer makes a useful point, however, it does not treat the OP' question. It is merely a remark connected to it. It is off topic.
    – LPH
    May 4 at 0:25
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Here's a rule of thumb and easy guide for English speakers going into French.

  • If there is a verb followed by à, the object will be indirect. That à can be aux for plural nouns. `

  • If there is no à, it will be a direct object.

MEMORIZE the indirect object pronouns, à me (moi), te (toi), lui to him, or lui à elle/soi, nous, vous, (leur) eux and answers to whom or to what something happens (à qui or à quoi)

AND the direct object pronouns: m' or m, t' or, l'/le/la, nous, vous, les and answers what questions.

nous and vous are the same in both!

Just two examples:

  • Je peux rencontrer tes parents demain ? [no à, so a direct object is needed.]

  • Est-ce que je peux les recontrer demain?

  • Le professeur parle aux étudiants. [an à in the form of aux for a plural noun is there, so indirect]

  • Le professeur leur parle.

Here is a trick: just use "est-ce que" for questions and don't try verb inversions. It's safer if you are not sure. So here: Doit-elle faire la cuisine ? Use: Est-ce qu'elle doit la faire? And for Aimes-tu les nouilles. Use: Est-ce que tu les aimes? Rather than: Les aimes-tu? Unless of course your teacher insists on inversions.

In general (not always), the inverted forms are more formal. As in: Les aimes-tu? for Do you love them? (noodles). They cannot mark your answer as wrong if you use "est-ce que", in my opinion. But I could be wrong about that.

[Please note: you probably won't encounter the soi and se at your level]

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  • 1
    I'm afraid you confuse disjoints/conjoints with "indirect/direct object". According to your reply, in le professeur leur parle, the pronoun leur is a direct object. It is not.
    – jlliagre
    May 3 at 13:02
  • @jlliagre "le professeur leur parle, the pronoun leur is a direct object. It is not." Nope, I didn't write that at all. I merely supplied the pronoun: leur. Le prof leur parle. disjoints/conjoints, indeed.
    – Lambie
    May 3 at 15:14
  • You list leur as a direct object pronoun.
    – jlliagre
    May 3 at 15:26
  • @jlliagre An oversight which I have corrected. Maybe I should have use tau.
    – Lambie
    May 3 at 19:46
  • The form of "aux" is "aux".
    – LPH
    May 4 at 0:34

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