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Le/Les/Lui/Leur/Eux/Elles: Different Types of Object Pronouns

I got bogged down by the difference between le and lui, so I figured I'd share the difference to save others some time. Simply put, object pronouns are either for direct objects or for indirect objects.

  • A direct object is the thing being acted upon. When you love Bob, Bob is the direct object.
  • An indirect object is something you do the action to or for. When you throw a ball to Bob, Bob is the indirect object (and the ball is the direct object). Generally, in English, indirect objects need a preposition while direct objects don't.

It's pretty easy once you figure that out. Only the third-person object pronouns change between direct and indirect forms.

  • Direct object pronouns: me | te | le/la | nous | vous | les
  • Indirect object pronouns: me | te | lui | nous | vous | leur

For instance, in the case of les vs leur, les is a direct object, while leur is an indirect object.

  • Direct: "Je les aime" = "I love them"
  • Indirect: "Je leur donne la photo" = "I gave the photo to them"
  • FYI, lui and leur should only be used for animate objects (people and animals). For anything else, use y.

[http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/directobjects.htm] [http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/indirectobjects.htm]

There are also stressed pronouns (or disjunctive pronouns). These emphasize a pronoun or follow prepositions.

  • Stressed pronouns: moi | toi | lui/elle | soi (oneself) | nous | vous | eux/elles.
  • Lui/eux are masculine and elle/elles are feminine.

These are more complicated, but are usually used in the following situations:

  • Emphasizing a pronoun.
  • Affirmative imperative sentences. "Show me" = "montrez-moi".
  • When asking or answering questions.
  • After prepositions. "In/to her house" is "chez elle" because chez is a special preposition.
  • With emphatic words like aussi. Moi aussi.


There's just one more object pronoun: the reflexive pronoun, se. This is used with all third-person pronominal verbs (see link). Reflexive pronouns are the same as direct object pronouns except in the third-person.

  • Reflexive pronouns: me / te / se / nous / vous / se
  • Se becomes s' in front of vowels and mute H's.


November 16, 2013



Thanks for a detailed and clear explanation of something that confuses me sometimes


I realize that you posted this a year ago, but just wanted to say thanks. It helps a lot.


This is quite useful, I had my fair share of headaches while trying to learn this some months ago, I'm sure a lot of people will appreciate :)


Merci beaucoup! This helped so much. :D I tried googling the difference between these pronouns but all the explanations were so confusing. But this explains everything really clearly and simply. I finally know when to use these pronouns, and the difference between a direct and indirect object. Thanks again :)


Very well done, thanks!


@sitesurf, Does Duolingo have a lesson on stressed pronouns? I find the content at the link that you shared (https://www.thoughtco.com/french-stressed-pronouns-1368932) too complex too understand.


It is in the Tips&Notes in Pronouns2.


Wow, I started to learn this yesterday and you explain it here very clear. So helpful!


Für alle Deutschsprachigen:

Versucht einfach, dieses Konzept vom Deutschen aus zu begreifen, die Englischsprachler haben in ihrer Grammatik keine Unterscheidung dieser Objekte, wir schon ;D

Das direkte Objekt ist das Akkusativobjekt. Wen oder was liebe / werfe ich? // 4. Fall

Das indirekte Objekt ist das Dativobjekt. Wem werfe ich etwas zu? // 3. Fall

Wenn man also im Deutschen den Dativ / den 3. Fall nutzen würde, verwendet man lui und leur, nutzte man hingegen im Deutschen den Akkusativ / den 4. Fall, so sind le, la oder les notwendig.

LG René =)


I am native Spanish speaker, and thanks to Duolingo, I could not just understand what you wrote, but also I know that this part of the grammar is easier to learn to german speakers because of the for cases and you have them very well identified. Merci pour cette information, und danke dir Mein Herr.


Really great, thanks heaps!!


This is just beautiful. Thank you for putting it all together in one place.


Merci beaucoup ! Pronouns are my most hated and toughest lesson! But your interpretation is so good! I finally understand it.


Is leurs an object pronoun as well? Or is it a possessive (pronoun)? Merci!


"leurs" is the plural possessive adjective for ils/elles as owners (their + plural noun).

"les leurs" is the plural possessive pronoun for ils/elles as well (theirs)


Thank you! I am still finding it hard to understand but I am getting there!... quite slowly though...


This is exactly what I was searching for! Merci beaucoup to the writer five years ago :)


Its been 6 years ago, but still help me a lot. Thanks mate!


Yep! Keep up your french learning!!! And thanks DXli because that question between the two had been in my mind for a while, so thanks for cleaning the confusion up!!!


thank you!!!!! the subject was so confusing i just kept getting everthing wrong!!!! you just saved me alotless confusion!!!!!!;)


I have the impression that this is wrong: Affirmative imperative sentences. "Show me" = "montrez-moi". If it was elle, it would be "montrez-lui", not "montrez-elle". Those are still indirect object pronouns, but me becomes moi and te becomes toi in imperative sentences.

http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/imperative_3.htm (point 3).


I love how the "simple" explanations are all very technical and complicated.


Thank you for explaining it clearly! I still get confused sometimes haha. Have a lingot!


Thank so much for this information.


Merci beaucoup pour cette information!


you make is sound so easy. yet, i will not get this once i leave the page. French will be the death of me...


Muchas gracias, estoy agradecido con usted y con el de arriba

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