Today we’re going to look at French pronouns. Specifically, the subjective case, the French equivalent of saying the following words:
In English, these are all the pronouns with which you start a simple sentence. Sentences like “You are speaking” and “He is listening.” We’ll look at all the basic pronouns that start a sentence, and even pick up a little extra vocabulary along the way!
For all of these examples, the text in French is in italics.
I am the number one pronoun
If you’re like me, you like to talk about yourself. After all, I’m probably the subject about which I’m most knowledgeable. So what should I say about myself?
- I have a computer.
- J’ai un ordinateur.
- I am talking about her.
- Je parle d’elle.
- I am thinking about vacation.
- Je pense aux vacances.
- I have to go to work.
- Je dois aller au travail.
- I am eating this cake.
- Je mange ce gâteau.
Basically, the way to say “I” in French is “je.” Note how the “e” is dropped when the next word starts with a vowel. Another important thing to note is that “je” isn’t capitalized in the middle of a sentence. For example:
- They are people that I don’t like.
- Ils sont des gens que je n’aime pas.
- The children I take care of are cute.
- Les enfants dont je m’occupe sont mignons.
- Amber is a girl I have feelings for.
- Amber est une fille pour qui j’ai de l’affection.
You are the second person on my mind
Much like Spanish, French has two forms of “you.” There is a singular and a plural. However, the plural is also used to address a single person formally. First, let’s use some examples with the singular form:
- You are speaking.
- Tu parles.
- You prepare it for us.
- Tu nous la prépare.
- You saw the children.
- Tu as vu les enfants.
- You are in your bed.
- Tu es dans ton lit.
- You are there.
- Tu y es.
Let’s look at the plural form of “you:”
- You don’t sleep enough.
- Vous ne dormez pas assez.
- You woke up.
- Vous vous êtes réveillés.
- You go to the movies.
- Vous allez au cinéma.
- You were studying.
- Vous étudiiez.
- You did not write to us!
- Vous ne nous avez pas écrit!
“Vous” is not only a different word from “tu,” but it also has a completely different way of conjugating verbs. We’ll get to that in a later post. I just want to point out that there is a difference, and thus you can’t just replace “tu” with “vous.”
It doesn’t exist!
Every noun in French is masculine or feminine. There is no French equivalent for “it.” They simply refer to everyday items as “he” or “she” depending on whether the item is masculine for feminine. What determines an object’s gender? It’s kind of arbitrary. You just have to make sure that you learn the gender as part of the vocabulary.
That said, “he” and “she” have the same verb conjugations, but the adjective forms change depending on the gender. Here are some examples with a masculine third-person subject:
- He is the most serious student in the class.
- Il est l’étudiant le plus sérieux de la classe.
- He loves the Mediterranean Sea.
- Il adore la Méditerranée.
- He broke his leg.
- Il s’est cassé la jambe.
- He gave me flowers.
- Il m’a offert des fleurs.
- He always eats a banana in the morning.
- Il mange toujours une banane le matin.
And some examples with a feminine subject:
- She is brushing her hair.
- Elle se brosse les cheveux.
- She doesn’t have money.
- Elle n’a pas d’argent.
- She is an actress.
- Elle est actrice.
- She speaks to him/her.
- Elle lui parle.
- She is not interested in politics.
- Elle ne s’intéresse pas à la politique.
Why not just call it the “first people” pronoun?
Ah, the first person plural: “we.” Or, en français, “nous.” Hopefully, when you go to the French-speaking locale of your choice, you’ll have a lovely lass (or perhaps a lad) of whom you can refer with yourself as “we.” Here are some things you might then say:
- We admire you.
- Nous t’admirons.
- We are learning French.
- Nous apprenons le français.
- We are happy.
- Nous sommes heureux.
- We are afraid of him.
- Nous avons peur de lui.
- We have been married for four years.
- Nous sommes mariés depius quatre ans.
Since this article is just about the subjective case, I’ll cover “us” at a later date. And since we’ve already covered the plural form of “you,” that leaves just one more pronoun:
They’re the last pronouns
That’s right! They are the French equivalents of “they:” “ils,” and “elles.” It should be noted that these are pronounced the exact same way as the singular version most of the time. Refer to the RhinoSpike recordings for the cases shown here.
Also note that “elles” is only used to refer a group that consists entirely of females or feminine objects. For example, if you were to refer the group of your door, your table, and your lamp (all feminine nouns in French,) you would say “elles.” However, if you were to include your bed (a masculine noun,) you would refer to the group as “ils.” Similarly, if you were to speaking about a gaggle of girls, you would say “elles,” but once that group has even one guy in it, it becomes “ils.” Let’s look at some sentences using “ils:”
- They are intelligent.
- Ils sont intelligents.
- They love one another.
- Ils s’aiment.
- They listen to their parents.
- Ils écoutent leurs parents.
- They talk to each other.
- Ils se parlent.
- They have a dog that I can’t stand.
- Ils ont un chien que je déteste.
And here are some sentences using “elles:”
- They are tall.
- Elles sont grandes.
- They were sleeping.
- Elles dormaient.
- They wrote to each other.
- Elles se sont écrit.
- They’ve known each other since they took the same class.
- Elles se connaissent depuis qu’elles ont suivi le même cours.
A personal subject
That wraps up the subjective pronouns. You can download an Anki deck with these sentences here. Additionally, I’ve posted an audio request of these sentences on RhinoSpike.
Note: The sentences in this article have been pulled from the book “Correct Your French Blunders” by Véronique Mazet, Ph.D. I’m not affiliated with the book or the author in any way, and I don’t receive anything for mentioning it here. However, it is a good reference for French because it provides a great deal of full French sentences and clear explaination of French grammar. Most importantly, it highlights an incredible amount of errors a novice French speaker may make.
Like this post? Give me the Thumbs Up!