In French, just like in English, to avoid repeating words placed after a preposition that follows a verb (which are called indirect objects), you use indirect object pronouns.
Learn about the pronouns lui, leur in French
Tip: If the words "indirect object pronoun" strike horror and panic into your heart, you can have a look at our Jargon Busters at the bottom of the lesson!
Or, just learn by example. Notice how lui and leur are used in these examples:
To soothe my children, I read a story to them.
- lui means either him OR her (depending on the context) and
- leur means them, irrespective of the the group's gender.
BUT we only use these words when the verb being used normally goes with à:
- téléphoner à <quelqu'un> (to telephone )
- demander à <quelqu'un> (to ask )
How and when to turn people into lui or leur (like magic...)
Look how these sentences change when specific people are replaced with pronouns:
Je parle à Paul. -> Je lui parle.
I'm speaking to Paul. -> I'm speaking to him.
Je demande à mes amis où sont les WC. -> Je leur demande où sont les WC.
I'm asking my friends where the toilets are. -> I'm asking them where the toilets are.
Il va téléphoner à ses parents. -> Il va leur téléphoner.
He's going to telephone his parents. -> He's going to telephone them.
In each case, the verb in the original sentence is followed by à, which disappears when the specified person is replaced by lui or leur, which also skips in front of the verb.
When NOT to use lui and leur (indirect object pronouns)
Contrast this with the following example where the verb is not followed by à = appeler <quelqu'un>.
Il va appeler ses parents. -> Il va les appeler.
He's going to call his parents. -> He's going to call them.
Lui and leur are only used with verbs usuallly followed by à. Other pronouns are used for the other cases.
Using le/la/l'/les = it/him/her/them (French Direct Object Pronouns)
Me/te/nous/vous = Me/you/us/you (French Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns)
See also Position of French Object Pronouns - with negations
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