For animate indirect objects, for most verbs, the pronoun is pre-verbal, but there are some verbs that require you to use à after the verb instead. For example:

  • je lui fais attention (bad)
  • je fais attention à lui (good)

Do the verbs that work like the one in this example have some qualities in common that make it possible to know whether you should use a pre-verbal pronoun or post-verbal prepositional phrase even if you're not already familiar with the verb?

1 Answer 1


Some of them do have characterics in common, a few, such as "faire attention" are exceptions.

Les pronoms objets - Le français net'ment - Laurent Patenotte

Les pronoms de la colonne "lui" and "leur" sont tous les deux indirects. Ils remplacent des noms représentant des personnes introduits par la préposition à. Ces noms sont utilisés à la 3e personne du singulier ou à la 3e personne du pluriel.
Exemple :
• Je parle à Jean => Je lui parle.
•Je dis bonjour à Jeanne et à son mari => Je leur dis bonjour.
• Je vais téléphoner à tes parents => Je vais leur téléphoner.

Exceptions : Avec les verbes « être à/penser à/rêver à/songer à/faire attention à/tenir à » et tous les verbes réfléchis + à + des personnes on utilise la préposition à + les pronoms accentués (à moi/à toi...), placés après le verbe.

Exemple :
• Tu penses à tes parents ? -Oui, je pense à eux. (personnes)
• Tu t'adresses à Sofia ? -Oui, je m'adresse à elle. (verbe réfléchi)
• mais : Tu fais attention à ma lettre ? -Oui, j' y fais attention. (chose)

The list of exceptions is not complete. Here are more.

  • prendre garde
  • aller à
  • venir à
  • courir à
  • faire allusion à …

A few reflexive verbs

  • se confier à
  • s'en remettre à
  • se rappeler à …
  • Thanks for the answer. The exceptions are what I'm curious about. I can some commonalities, such as penser à, rêver à, and songer à all having something to do with thoughts, but how would aller à fit into that or tenir à? If I didn't memorize these by rote, how would I know that they're exceptions? Jan 12, 2023 at 2:39
  • @joshisanonymous You welcome. I am aware of no generalisation as far as the exceptions other than those of the reflexive verbs (We should, by the way, call them all exceptions; this is a small mistake found in the reference, and it should be taken into account; the fact that the reflexive verbs are identifiable by means of a simple category does not make them less exceptional). Especially if the list is long, it is much better not to try to memorize it. The best method is reading, which at the same time will teach you painlessly many other principles, (1/2)
    – LPH
    Jan 12, 2023 at 12:07
  • @joshisanonymous and familiarize you with the culture. In fact you will recognize the exceptions instantly without even having to know that they are exceptions. Even if you are studying to be a teacher of French, no more is needed than to know the fact that there are exceptions and being able to name a few, as in the reference. (2/2)
    – LPH
    Jan 12, 2023 at 12:12
  • @joshisanonymous in the case of the reflexive pronouns, it's perfectly explainable, but not through semantic means. The French preverbal weak pronouns for into templatic slots where only one pronoun can fit. In order: subject pronouns, ne, reflexives and syncretic pronouns, third person direct object pronouns, third person indirect object pronouns, y, en. A further complication is that the reflexive and 3P IO slots can't be filled at once. Jan 14, 2023 at 18:08
  • This immediately bars lui and leur to appear on a reflexive verb, and explains why "elle la leur présente" is fine but "elle se leur présente" is not grammtocal Jan 14, 2023 at 18:09

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